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VCU (20-6) at Massachusetts (20-5)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Friday, February 21, 7 p.m. (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Mullins Center (9,493) -- Amherst, Massachusetts. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: VCU 13-0, UMass 10-1. Away Record: VCU 4-4, UMass 6-3. Neutral Record: VCU 3-2, UMass 4-1. Conference Record: VCU 8-3, UMass 7-4. Series Record: VCU leads, 2-0.

GAME NOTES: A pair of teams still with an outside chance of finishing atop the Atlantic 10 Conference standings get together in Amherst tonight, as the VCU Rams pay a visit to the Massachusetts Minutemen.

Riding its stifling "Havoc" defense, VCU has logged a 20-6 record, which includes an 8-3 league ledger -- good for a second-place tie with Saint Joseph's. The Rams have stumbled a bit of late however, dropping two of their last three games, the most recent of which being a 64-62 setback at first- place Saint Louis last Saturday.

UMass had been a member of the Top-25 for a time earlier this season, and while the team is an impressive 20-5 overall, it is 7-4 against A-10 rivals. The Minutemen have won three of their last four, including a 67-61 decision at George Washington last Saturday. A win this evening would improve the team's record at home to 11-1.

This bout marks only the third meeting between these two teams, with VCU winning the first two, both of which occurred last season.

As strong as VCU is defensively, the squad ran into an even more suffocating unit in Saint Louis last weekend, the Billikens allowing just a 38.5 percent shooting effort to the Rams, who put three players in double figures, led by Treveon Graham's 16 points. Graham missed all five of his 3-point attempts, bringing the team down to a miserable 2-of-16 from distance for the game. Both Juvonte Reddic and Briante Weber came up a rebound shy of logging a double- double, as they scored 13 and 12 points, respectively. VCU forced 17 turnovers.

The Rams are netting 75.9 ppg while allowing exactly 10 points fewer, and they are boasting three double-digit scorers. Graham leads the way with his 15.7 ppg and he grabs 6.9 rpg, while Reddic (12.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and Melvin Johnson (10.14 ppg) produce more times than not, when given the opportunity.

Sampson Carter put the Minutemen on his back last week against George Washington, going 7-of-10 from the field to tally 20 points. Derrick Gordon (11 points) was the only other player to reach double figures for UMass, which made good on 49 percent of its total shots, but was a horrendous 12-of-26 at the free-throw line while committing 15 turnovers. Fortunately, the Colonials struggled to find their stroke, going a mere 36.7 percent from the floor, which included just a 4-of-13 showing from beyond the arc. They also had a tough time at the stripe, converting 13-of-21 attempts.

UMass has a slightly higher scoring average than its counterpart tonight, hitting for 77.0 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .473 overall and .363 from 3-point land. Defensively, the team is yielding 70.1 ppg, with foes shooting 41.1 percent from the field, which includes a 30.5 percent effort from the perimeter. Chaz Williams heads a list of four players averaging double digits, by netting 15.4 ppg to go with his staggering total of 183 assists (7.3 apg, third-best in the country). Center Cady Lalanne contributes at both ends of the floor, posting 12.8 points and a team-high 8.6 caroms per contest.

This should be a wildly entertaining game between two teams that can light up the scoreboard. VCU is the stronger defensive squad, but it is just 4-4 in true road games this season. With that, give the Minutemen the nod.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Massachusetts 72, VCU 70

02/21 10:30:57 ET

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