RICHMOND, Va. - The Stetson men's basketball team (2-3) fell behind early and never recovered against a battle tested VCU (4-3) squad, falling to the Rams by a score of 92-56 on Wednesday night in Richmond.
Known for their stifling style of defense, the Rams forced the Hatters into 22 turnovers, which is seven more than in any other game this season for Stetson. VCU turned that into 32 points off of turnovers, and 17 fast break points.
In front of a raucous 21st consecutive sellout Verizon Wireless Arena, the Rams forced Stetson to 34.0 (16-of-47) percent shooting from the floor and just 16.7 (3-of-18) percent shooting from beyond the arc. That is over 20 percentage points less than the team's 37.6 percent average.
However, it was offensive rebounds and second chance opportunities that hurt the Hatters in the early going. Nine boards on the offensive glass for the Rams turned into 13 second chance points, and got VCU out to a 41-22 lead at the break.
Stetson was hanging in there with the Rams to start, as a backdoor pass from freshman Logan Irwin found senior Joel Naburgs for a layup to tie the game at 2-2. VCU center Juvonte Reddic quickly countered with his second straight basket to give the Rams a lead they would not give up the rest of the contest.
The Hatters found success in taking it to the athletic Rams, forcing VCU to foul Stetson early on. Free throws by junior Willie Green, senior Adam Pegg, and junior Chris Perez were followed by a driving basket from Perez to keep Stetson in the game a 9-8 with 13:48 to play in the first half.
An 11-2 run from the Rams increased the Stetson deficit to 10 points at 20-10, and that's when VCU found its rhythm. The Hatters went into the break down 19 points when a three-pointer, a steal, and a fast break layup gave VCU the momentum.
After VCU extended its lead to as many as 28 early in the second half, Stetson used a 13-0 run to get back within 15 points, at 55-40 with 12:12 to play. Seven straight points by Perez - on a triple and two drives to the basket - were sandwiched between six free throws from Naburgs and Irwin.
That was when the Rams showed why they recently defeated #19 Memphis, fell to #5 Duke by just nine, and dropped a tight 68-65 game to #13 Missouri. VCU is a very good team, and proved it by outscoring Stetson 37-16 over the rest of the game Wednesday night.
Stetson was led by Naburgs, who scored 16 points, dished out three assists, and picked up two steals. Perez added 15 points and four rebounds, while Irwin chipped in with nine points and three assists. Green led the Hatters with eight rebounds.
Continuing with the quality team play that led to Stetson leading the nation in assists per game as of Monday, the Hatters were once again very efficient on Wednesday night. SU recorded just 16 field goals, but 14 of them were assisted baskets.
VCU was led by four double-digit scorers, including Reddic, who finished with 20 points and six rebounds. Rob Brandenberg and Jarred Guest each recorded 17 points, while the latter led the Rams with a game-high 10 boards. They totaled 14 steals in the win, as Brandenberg and Briante Weber tallied four each.
"We're really disappointed, obviously," Stetson head coach Casey Alexander said after the game. "They're a great team, and you have to play great to give yourselves a chance, and we played anything but that."
Stetson will now head back to Florida to take on Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach on Monday, December 3. The game can be heard on WSBB 1230 AM in New Smyrna, 1490 AM in DeLand, and on www.myam1230.com.