RICHMOND, Va. – In a season-opener that resembled a track meet as much as it did a basketball game, UNCG's Brandon Evans scored a career-high 26 points but it wasn't enough to offset five Rams in double figures as VCU defeated the Spartans, 101-86, Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
VCU's Joey Rodriguez set a school-record for assists in a game, finishing with 17 to go along with his 22 points. Jamie Skeen also had 22 points, while Brandon Rozzell had 23. Bradford Burgess added 14 points and Toby Veal chipped in 11 for the Rams (1-0).
The Spartans hung tough on the glass against the Rams, holding a 42-37 advantage. VCU, known for its ability to rebound, grabbed 18 offensive boards, but the Spartans grabbed 17 of their own.
UNCG pulled to within nine with 3:38 to play at 88-79. But the Rams closed out the night by scoring 13 of the final 20 points to hold off the late surge.
Evans scored 18 of his game-high 26 in the first half to keep the Spartans within striking distance despite some early foul trouble. He went 13-for-15 from the free throw line on the night. As a team, UNCG was 25-of-33 from the charity stripe.
VCU's up-tempo, full-court pressing style helped the Rams to a quick start. VCU scored 25 points in the first seven minutes to build an early 13-point lead. The Rams hit four of five from three-point range in the quick start.
Further complicating things was some early foul trouble for the Spartans. UNCG was whistled for nine fouls in the first nine minutes, three of them on Henry. But the Rams cooled off, scoring just five points in the next four minutes and UNCG chipped away at the lead. Evans' two free throws with 8:59 left before half cut the VCU lead to six. Korey Van Dussen's 16-footer from the right wing nearly a minute later made it 30-26 and what had been a raucous crowd of 7,094 became silent.
The Rams were able to find their stride again and extended their lead back to 11 by the intermission, 55-44, despite 18 first-half points by Evans.
The Spartans kept hanging around early in the second half, trailing still by only 11 before the Rams ran off eight straight points to take a 72-53 lead with 14:25 left. UNCG clawed back to within 13 with 9:58 to play following two Van Dussen free throws.
UNCG coach Mike Dement had a decision to make as the game wound down, however. The Spartans had four guys on the floor with four fouls with 5:34 to play, trailing by 12 and deciding it was time to gamble. Brandon Evans' trey made it 88-77. Freshman Cody Henegar's putback on the following possession pulled UNCG to within nine.
But the Rams responded by scoring the next seven points to push the lead back to 16.
UNCG returns to action on Sunday when it hosts Florida State at the Greensboro Coliseum. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. Pregame festivities get underway with the Home Opener Kickoff party in the Pavillion beginning at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Net South and Fox Sports Net Florida.
VCU 101, UNCG 86
Brandon Evans 5-11 13-15 26; Korey Van Dussen 5-8 6-8 18; Aaron Brackett 6-12 0-0 12; Aloysius Henry 3-5 4-6 10; David Williams 3-5 1-2 7; Brian Cole 3-8 0-0 7; Drew Parker 1-6 1-2 4; Cody Henegar 1-2 0-0 2; Darrius Sellers 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-58 25-33 86.
Brandon Rozzell 9-14 0-0 23; Jamie Skeen 7-10 7-11 22; Joey Rodriguez 8-15 2-2 22; Bradford Burgess 5-9 3-5 14; Toby Veal 5-7 1-3 11; Darius Theus 2-3 1-3 5; Ed Nixon 2-8 0-0 4; David Hinton 0-1 0-2 0; Troy Daniels 0-3 0-0 0; DJ Haley 0-0 0-0 0; Rob Brandenberg 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 38-72 14-26 101.
UNCG.......................... 44 42 - 86
VCU........................... 55 46 - 101
Halftime: VCU 55-44. 3-point goals--UNCG 7-16 (Brandon Evans 3-4; Korey Van Dussen 2-4; Drew Parker 1-3; Brian Cole 1-2; Aloysius Henry 0-1; Aaron Brackett 0-2), VCU 11-31 (Brandon Rozzell 5-9; Joey Rodriguez 4-10; Bradford Burgess 1-5; Jamie Skeen 1-1; Troy Daniels 0-2; Rob Brandenberg 0-1; Ed Nixon 0-2; Darius Theus 0-1). Fouled out--UNCG-David Williams, VCU-None. Rebounds--UNCG 42 (David Williams 8), VCU 37 (Jamie Skeen 7). Assists--UNCG 20 (Drew Parker 8), VCU 28 (Joey Rodriguez 17). Total fouls--UNCG 24, VCU 22. Technical fouls--UNCG-None, VCU-None. A-7094
FREE THROWS: Must be something in the water in Richmond for Brandon Evans. Evans had a previous career-high 22 points at University of Richmond last December… the 55 points allowed in the first half were the most by the Spartans since January 29, 2009 when they allowed 55 at College of Charleston… The Spartans opened the season on the road for the seventh straight season and the 17th time in 20 Division I seasons… Van Dussen's previous career-high was 13 points at East Carolina last November 28… the last time UNCG allowed 100 points was Dec. 31, 2005 against Duke…
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