In the course of 94 seconds, the VCU Rams were able to avenge their Valentine's Day loss to the George Mason Patriots. In that brief time, VCU looked like the best team in the CAA.
With 11 minutes and 33 seconds remaining in the first half and the game tied 16-16, VCU Rams senior guard Bradford Burgess caught the ball on the wing and then connected one of his five three-pointers of the night. VCU was then able to get set in their full-court defense. Within a few blinks GMU turned the ball over three times while the Rams went on a 12-0 run. VCU never looked back.
“It was huge, it really defined the game,” VCU junior Troy Daniels said in reference to the run. “Coming out we wanted to get payback for what they did down there, so we were just really motivated.”
It wasn’t just the defense that was firing on all cylinders. The Rams put up their season-high in points in the 89-77 win, thanks in large part to senior Bradford Burgess, who was playing for the final time in Stuart Siegel Center in front of a sold-out crowd. Burgess scored a career-high 31 points on 7-14 shooting, and was 12-14 at the stripe.
“It’s great to go out like that on Senior Night,” Burgess said. “I just tried to play my best game my last time out.”
With 10:15 left in the second half, GMU guard Sherrod Wright hit one of two free throws to cut the Rams lead to 55-44. Only seconds later, Burgess slammed the door on any attempt by the Patriots to sneak back into the game when he rose up to bury another three-pointer.
“It was the Bradford Burgess show,” VCU head coach Shaka Smart said. “He led our team in every way… he was reasons one, two and three why we won."
VCU (25-6, 15-3) is 15-1 over their last 16 games. With the win, they locked up the second seed in next weekend's CAA Tournament.
George Mason (23-8, 14-4) will have to settle for third.
The Patriots dropped two in a row. Though the team is still positioned to get an at large bid in March’s NCAA Tournament, a glaring weakness needs to be addressed–turnovers. GMU had 13 in Saturday's first half.
“The stat that stands out obviously is the points off turnovers 22-4,” George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said. “It’s very tough to win in that situation."
Ryan Pearson was the lone bright spot on an otherwise ugly stat sheet for the Patriots. Pearson ended his regular season career Saturday night scoring 24 points and added nine rebounds.
Both teams are looking forward to the CAA Tournament starting next weekend at the Richmond Coliseum. If they win in the opening round, VCU and GMU will play once more.