In a tough game, Xavier falls to VCU 75-71. The Musketeers fall to 15-11(8-5), while VCU improves to 22-6(10-3).
The Musketeers came out of the gates with passion, energy and determination not to be overcome by VCU's defensive pressure. Justin Martin hit back-to-back and-1 layups to open the game that gave Xavier an early 6-2 lead.
Troy Daniels hit his only 3 of the first half to cut the lead to 10-9. This would be the theme of the half for VCU as Daniels went 1/7 from 3, and the team just 2/17.
The key for VCU's early struggles was intense defensive pressure by the Musketeers. An arrant pass by Juvonte Reddic led to a Justin Martin steal and finish with the slam. After a made free throw by Rob Brandenberg, Xavier went on a 13-2 run. The play of Dee Davis was critical during this run, as he hit two 3-pointers to give the Musketeers a 28-14 lead with 5:32 left in the first half.
A made 3-pointer by Rob Brandenberg ended the Musketeers run. Xavier continued to battle and push VCU back on their heels at the end of the half. Dee Davis slipped a screen and received a pass from Semaj, in which Davis finished also drawing the foul. Davis hit the free throw and gave the Musketeers a 39-26 lead going into halftime.
The Musketeers finished the half shooting an astounding 73.7% from the field, 42.9% from 3-point, and 88.9% from the free throw line. VCU shot only 30.3% from the field, 11.8% from 3-point, and 57.1% from the free throw line. However, the second half was completely different from the first half.
Xavier came out of halftime with the same pep and energy that they started the first half with. Semaj stole the ball from an unsuspecting Juvonte Reddic and finished with a one-handed dunk. This gave the Musketeers their biggest lead of the game at 43-26 with 18:57 left in the second half.
Being down 17, VCU turned up their defensive pressure and began to cause trouble for Xavier. Troy Daniels hit back-to-back 3s to stop the Musketeers run and start one for the Rams. Juvonte Reddic stole the ball from Justin Martin and finished with a slam. Two made free throws by Traveon Graham capped the 10-0 run by the Rams, which brought the lead back within single digits.
A 3 from Brad Redford countered a made 3 by Melvin Johnson, as the Musketeers extended the lead to 48-39. The Rams refused to quit and continued to play lock down defense. A steal and layup by Briante Weber started another big run for VCU. The Rams were able to turnover Xavier four times during the 11-0 run that gave VCU their first lead of the game. A layup by Teddy Okereafor gave the Rams their first lead at 50-48 with 10:43 left in the game.
Brad Redford continued to be clutch and hit a big 3 in transition from Isaiah Philmore, which allowed Xavier to regain the lead. The Rams continued to apply pressure after Dee Davis left the game due to an injury. Davis butted heads with Melvin Johnson. A steal by Briante Weber led to another basket by VCU. Jeff Robinson went 1/2 from the foul line and gave the Musketeers a 58-57 lead.
With Davis out, Xavier continued to struggle taking care of the ball. Rob Brandenberg stole the ball from Semaj Christon and finished with a layup to give VCU a three-point lead. Semaj continued to struggle as Troy Daniels stole the ball from him again, but nothing came of the turnover after D.J. Haley was called for a moving screen.
After a missed layup by Melvin Johnson, Semaj Christon drove the floor and found an open Brad Redford who knocked down another 3 to help Xavier regain the lead. Troy Daniels answered with a 3 of his own to give the Rams the lead again. A rare missed 3 by Brad Redford led to instant offense for VCU as Daniels hit another 3 to give the Rams a 69-65 lead with 4:04 left in the game.
Two made free throws by Isaiah Philmore cut the Rams lead to two. Immediately after the free throws, Rob Brandenberg hit a jumper to extend the lead back to four. Reddic fouled Semaj sending him to the line for two free throws. Semaj went 1/2 cutting the lead to three. Rob Brandenberg would be fouled and convert both free throws. With VCU leading 73-68, Justin Martin hit a 3 to bring the Musketeers back within two. Brandenberg would be fouled again and would make both free throws. Semaj dribbled down the court and struggled to get a 3 off as time expired, securing the comeback win for VCU.
Xavier was led in scoring by Dee Davis and Brad Redford who both finished with 15 points. Justin Martin, Isaiah Philmore, and Semah Christon all finished with 11 points. Semaj also had a game high10 turnovers and seemed to struggle with the defensive pressure, especially after Davis left the game.
The Musketeers shot 54.8% from the field, 44.4% from 3-point, and 73.9% from the free throw line. Xavier turned the ball over 22 times, which is double the amount of turnovers that VCU finished with.
VCU was led in scoring by Troy Daniels who finished with 19 points. Rob Brandenberg had 18 points. Treveon Graham finished with 17 points. Juvonte Reddic rounded out the Rams scoring with 10 points.
The Rams shot 41.5% from the field, 28.6% from 3-point, and 72.2% from the line. VCU outrebounded the Musketeers 32-29 with 13 of those rebounds being offensive. Xavier finished the game with 3 offensive rebounds. The Rams also had 23 points off of turnovers, as the Musketeers finished with 11 points from turnovers.
Xavier will be back in action Tuesday, February 26, against the Memphis Tigers. The game will take place at the Cintas Center and will tip off at 7:00 P.M.