The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams (19-5, 7-2), using an aggressive defensive scheme and efforts from three double-digit scorers, defeated the Charlotte 49ers (17-6, 5-4) on Saturday night in Halton Arena, 68-61.
VCU entered the game as the the number one team in the nation in the categories of steals (279), steals per game (12.1) and turnovers forced per game (20.4).
Charlotte entered the contest averaging just over 15 turnovers a game. The combination of those numbers proved to be lethal for the 49ers, as they were forced into 17 turnovers which led to 23 of VCU’s 68 total points.
“This was as physical of a basketball as we’ve played in a while,” said VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart. “We knew it was going to be that way and we told our guys all week long.”
A packed Halton Arena watched VCU jump out to an early lead in the first half, and the Rams led by 11 points not even seven minutes into the game. The 49ers were able to quickly battle back with an 18-7 run, tying the game with just over four minutes left in the half.
Charlotte went into the locker room at halftime only trailing by six points, but had already committed 10 turnovers.
The second half opened just as the first half did, with the 49ers having trouble controlling the ball and the Rams building an 11-point lead. However, Charlotte was not able to completely reel in VCU during the final 20 minutes.
The Rams had built up a 14-point lead with five minutes left to play, and are now 18-0 when leading at that point in the game.
“They kept us at bay and made some timely jumpers,” Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major said. “That’s the mark of a good team, they found ways to respond when we made our runs at them. We weren’t quite ourselves for the full 40 minutes.”
VCU guard Rob Brandenburg led all scorers with 21 points on seven of 12 shooting. The junior was perfect from the free throw line (4-4) and made three of his five three-point field goal attempts.
Forward Juvonte Reddic, who was named Atlantic 10 (A-10) Co-Player of the Week after posting back to back double-doubles in two games last week, scored 14 points for the Rams on six of nine shooting.
Treveon Graham was the third VCU double-digit scorer with 12 points, half of which came from behind the arc.
Guard Terrance Williams led all 49ers in scoring with 13 points, sinking five of his six field goal attempts (83.3 percent). Willie Clayton also scored in double-digits with 12 points and shot 85.7 percent from the field.
Pierria Henry struggled offensively, only making three of his 12 field goal attempts, but pulled down 11 rebounds which ties his career high.
Charlotte did have an advantage in the post. The 49ers out-rebounded the Rams 36-18 and scored 42 points in the paint compared to VCU’s 28.
“They did a great job on the glass. It’s pretty amazing that we won when we were out-rebounded by  and I think that’s a testament to how we defended,” Smart added.
VCU’s aggressive style of defense led to 22 personal fouls and 22 49er free throw attempts. However, Charlotte was unable to capitalize and only shot 54.5 percent from the charity stripe.
The Rams made seven of their eight free throw attempts (87.5 percent).
VCU will return home to Richmond for another conference game against UMass on Thursday.
Following two consecutive losses, Charlotte will travel to Indianapolis, Ind. and try to bounce back against the Butler Bulldogs on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.