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02/23/2013 5:31 PM EST
No. 24 VCU rallies for 75-71 win over Xavier
VA COMMONWEALTH 75, XAVIER 71

By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Virginia Commonwealth was down by 17 points in
the second half on a court where Atlantic 10 opponents almost
never win. There aren't, though, many teams in any conference
that have the Rams' ability to come back fast.



The 24th-ranked Rams intensified their full-court pressure and
pulled out a 75-71 victory over Xavier on Saturday, winning
another one their way.



Lots of energy. Lots of defense.



"In the second half, our guys said, `We've got nothing to lose,
we're down by a lot of points, let's just go after it,"' coach
Shaka Smart said.



Troy Daniels led the way with 19 points, including consecutive
3s that started the big comeback. VCU (22-6, 10-3 A-10) forced
Xavier into a season-high 22 turnovers, 12 of them in the second
half when the Musketeers were missing their injured point guard.



Daniels set a school record for 3-pointers in a season, hitting
four in the second half. Rob Brandenberg added 18 points and
scored the Rams' final six, including two free throws with 10.8
seconds left that clinched it.



"At halftime, we had a decision to make," Brandenberg said. "We
could feel sorry for ourselves after the first half. We made a
decision to come out and just played hard. That willed us to
win."



The Musketeers (15-11, 8-5) played the final 13:35 without point
guard Dee Davis, who was hit in the forehead and cut above his
right eye. He left for treatment with Xavier up by five points
and never returned.



Davis and Brad Redford finished with 15 points apiece for
Xavier, which came into the game as the only team still unbeaten
at home in A-10 games. VCU became only the second A-10 team to
win at the Cintas Center since 2007, along with Saint Louis.



The Musketeers are 52-2 in A-10 home games since 2007.



The Rams were coming off a 76-62 loss at Saint Louis that
snapped a five-game winning streak and showed the way to beat
them - handle the full-court pressure. VCU leads the nation in
steals and forced turnovers, leading to a lot of easy points.



Xavier handled the pressure for a half. The Musketeers shot 73.7
percent from the field (14 of 19) while taking a 39-26 lead.
Semaj Christon had a steal and dunk that pushed it to 43-26
early in the second half.



Then, it all fell apart for Xavier.



The Rams were only 2 of 17 from behind the arc in the first
half, preventing them from getting into their full-court
pressure. Daniels' 3s got them into a comfort zone and started a
10-point run.



"That was a huge turning point," Daniels said. "That's my job.
My teammates found me open and I started to hit some shots."



VCU went 6 of 11 behind the arc in the second half.



Davis got hit above his right eye while trying to get through a
trap off an inbounds pass. He left the game for treatment with
13:35 to go and Xavier ahead 48-43. Christon, a shooting guard,
was forced to handle the ball the rest of the way.



"In the second half, we just didn't do as good of a job handling
the pressure," Redford said. "In the first half, we were more
poised. In the second half, we had stretches - especially when
Dee went out - where we turned the ball over too much. It
definitely hurts when he goes out of the game and Semaj is the
primary ballhandler, especially in a game like this."



Treveon Graham hit a baseline shot and a 3-pointer as VCU got
its first lead, 50-48, completing a 24-5 run.



There were three ties and nine lead changes down the stretch.
Brandenberg hit a floater in the lane and two free throws that
put VCU up 73-68 with 26 seconds left, the Rams' biggest lead.



Xavier's Justin Martin hit a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left, but
Brandenberg made two more free throws to finish it off.



---



Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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