After an ugly, low-scoring first half that ended in a 26-26 tie, Shaka Smart must have given the Va. Commonwealth Rams a stern talking to in the locker room, because they came out like gangbusters in the second half and held off a late surge by the Northeastern Huskies to win, 75-65, and advance to the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
The Rams used terrifyingly active hands (14 steals) and terrific bench scoring — 19 from Rob Brandenberg, 16 from Treveon Graham, both reserves — to run away from the Huskies. The Rams are the conference's No. 2 seed, but weren't playing like it in the first half. They finished with 45 percent shooting from long range, a key component in their winning formula.
The seventh-seeded Huskies played valiantly in a loss to a team that features many Final Four veterans. Their most impressive performers, Joel Smith, Quincy Ford and Jonathan Lee, will all be returning next year, when they'll certainly help the Huskies finish better than a seventh seed. Smith and Ford scored 17 points apiece — Ford, a freshman, also had 11 rebounds — and Lee scored 16, but had seven turnovers, victimized by the Rams' fast hands.
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