USC: Jamie Skeen

Rapid Reaction: VCU 59, USC 46

March, 16, 2011
3/16/11
9:02
PM PT
DAYTON, Ohio -- The inaugural First Four has officially wrapped up. Here's a quick recap of Virginia Commonwealth's 59-46 win over USC at the University of Dayton Arena on Wednesday night:

Turning point: The two teams were tied at 22-22 at halftime after a big 3-pointer from VCU's Rob Brandenburg leading into the break, but the Rams blitzed the Trojans at the start of the second period with a 15-5 run.



In a seven-minute period, VCU hit four 3-pointers -- including two by senior point guard Joey Rodriguez -- and took a 37-27 lead that held up well in the final minutes of a low-scoring affair.

Key player: VCU's Jamie Skeen was the most dominant player on the court. He finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, but his 3-point shooting -- 2-of-4 -- really helped spread out the Rams' offense, and USC's Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson weren't well-equipped to defend him out there.

Skeen also did a fine defensive job on Vucevic when he was asked to guard him, although VCU's 7-foot freshman D.J. Haley did a lot of the dirty work against the Trojans' big men.

USC's Jio Fontan deserves some consideration for an inspired 14-point performance, but fouling out with four minutes to play is not the way to lead your team to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

As Skeen walked off the court Wednesday with his coach, Shaka Smart, at his side, he received a standing ovation from the VCU fans in attendance.

Key stat: The difference between the two teams in total shots is remarkable.

The Rams shot the ball 59 times, USC just 38. With that big of a margin, VCU could afford to shoot a worse percentage (34 percent to the Trojans' 39) and still easily come away with the win.

What to attribute it to? Well, the Trojans were outrebounded (36-29) by a team that doesn't outrebound many of its opponents. USC also committed a ton of turnovers and failed to convert a good percentage of its opportunities from the free-throw line.

What's next: VCU advanced to play Southwest Regional No. 6-seeded Georgetown in Chicago on Friday in what many are calling a solid matchup for the Rams. The Hoyas are welcoming back injured point guard Chris Wright to the lineup, and Wright has been a huge piece of their team so far this season. Smart, Skeen and Co. will fly into Chicago tonight by NCAA charter and meet with the media Thursday afternoon in the Windy City.

First look: Virginia Commonwealth

March, 14, 2011
3/14/11
7:47
AM PT
It's new and it's unusual, but it's reality: USC will face Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio as part of the NCAA's new "First Four" system. The Trojans and Rams will play at 6 p.m. on truTV for the No. 11 seed in the Southwest bracket and the right to travel to Chicago and face sixth-seeded Georgetown in the official first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Here's what you need to know about VCU and its 33-year-old coach, Shaka Smart: (1) Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill compares them to Pac-10 champion Washington, and (2) the Rams' defensive style is known as "havoc."

Suffice to say, Smart's squad is quick, and Smart's squad is multi-talented. The annual Colonial Athletic Association powers play a lot of full-court press, which will surely trouble a USC team that has rarely faced such a defense this season. The Rams are also 10-deep, meaning that the stretch run of Wednesday's game will feature a tired Trojan squad against a not-so-tired Rams squad.

Still, USC is favored to win by most experts, and the consensus appears to be that the two teams will meet for one of the more highly anticipated games of the first round.

“VCU is a team that, obviously, being in the NCAA tournament as an at-large, deserves our respect," O'Neill said Sunday. "They’re gonna play up and down, they’re gonna shoot threes, they’re gonna play aggressive. They’re deep, they play hard."

VCU's top two players are two upperclassmen in forward Jamie Skeen and guard Bradford Burgess. Skeen, a 6-9, 240-pound Wake Forest transfer, puts up 15.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and also possesses a potent outside shot. Burgess averages 14 points per game and can also stroke it from long range, tossing up more than four 3-pointers per game this season.

Aside from its top two, VCU has a lot of guards. The Rams' next four top scorers all stand 6-4 or shorter. Lately, Smart has also been starting a 7-foot freshman center named D.J. Haley, who hails from nearby Palmdale, and playing him limited minutes.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see the raw, athletic Haley start Wednesday and cover either the Trojans' Nikola Vucevic or Alex Stepheson at tip-off.

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