03-04-2013, 03:01 PM
1st Four to Final Four
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Basketball Capital of the World
Rams go on a rampage, overpower Butler 84-52
BY TIM PEARRELL
Barely 2˝ minutes into the game, Briante Weber did what he and Virginia Commonwealth do: create turnovers and mayhem, sometimes in that order.
Weber, a pesky sophomore guard whose hands always seem to be flicking at the ball like a snake’s tongue, struck against Butler’s Roosevelt Jones in the backcourt.
With Jones helplessly in a heap on the court, Weber took a few dribbles and hammered down a vicious dunk, igniting an already explosive crowd into a deafening roar that Rams coach Shaka Smart said probably was the loudest he’s heard at the Siegel Center.
VCU’s Havoc was off and running early Saturday. It never stopped in an 84-52 annihilation of No.20 Butler in an Atlantic 10 game that demonstrated the kind of devastation that can make the Rams an extremely dangerous team in the NCAA tournament.
Butler has beaten No.1 Indiana and No.2 Gonzaga this season.
“I don’t put a whole lot of stock into the number we won by,” Smart said. “Butler is a good team, make no mistake about it. They obviously have won some huge games this year, and they’re going to continue to win big games. Today was just our day.
“It just shows what we’re capable of. Hopefully, we can do it again.”
The Rams (23-6, 11-3), alone in second place in the A-10, were unrelenting on both ends of the court while securing one of the top four seeds and a first-round bye in the A-10 tournament. The Bulldogs (22-7, 9-5) fell into a tie for fourth and suffered their worst loss in 19 seasons and worst under coach Brad Stevens, who’s in his sixth season.
VCU draped black Havoc T-shirts over the seats at the Siegel Center for a blackout, then spelled out #HAVOC with gold shirts for the highly anticipated game featuring teams that met in the 2011 Final Four.
The Rams lived up to their trademark by ripping apart the Bulldogs. Butler had 23 turnovers, leading to quick strikes and 34 VCU points. The Rams had 17 steals, running their season total to 355 and setting an A-10 record.
Asked if the defensive effort was as good a display of Havoc as he’s seen, Smart said, “It’s close.”
Smart said he was worried the buildup to the game might psych out his players. But he noticed an added energy and commitment in practice Friday to “just the discipline of doing the tiniest little thing that makes the difference in the game.”
Senior point guard Darius Theus noticed enough energy early, both with the Rams and the crowd, for Dominion Power to light the city for a day.
“The gym got packed before the 12-minute mark of warm-ups,” said Theus, who had eight points, nine assists and five steals in 24 minutes. “That might have been the first time it was that packed that early. You could feel the energy level.”
Sharpshooter Troy Daniels stoked the electricity by nailing a trio of 3-pointers and finishing with 20 points. At one point in the first half, Daniels had 14 points. Butler had 12.
Forward Juvonte Reddic did a lot of damage around the basket and had 11 points. Weber, who had struggled recently offensively, and Treveon Graham each had 11 points.
“We were pretty aggressive,” Theus said. “We’ve seen spurts of that throughout the season. (Today) it was pretty intense out there. The guys came to press.
“Shoot, I wish we could play like we did tonight every night.”
Smart put one thing on the board before the Rams took the court: Be VCU.
Except for a second-half comeback in a 75-71 win over Xavier, the Rams hadn’t played their style in the past two games. This time, they contested almost every pass and hounded Butler all over the court while building a 45-21 lead at the half.
Butler’s guards often let Jones, a 6-foot-4, 227-pound forward, try to bring the ball upcourt against the pressure. Guard Rotnei Clarke, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer (17 per game), wasn’t a factor with five points and played only four minutes in the second half.
“I was telling my wife what I was going to say when I walked in here was have Weber and Theus stand in front of you as you’re typing your article and just swipe at your computer constantly and see if the article gets done,” said Stevens, who was in the media room after the game faster than the Rams generated a turnover.
“I haven’t seen a team that fast yet.”