The Virginia Commonwealth Rams rocked the AP No. 20 Butler Bulldogs on Saturday 84-52 in the friendly, raucous confines of Richmond's Stuart Segal Center.
In a highly anticipated Atlantic 10 Conference showdown between two Cinderellas that squared off in the 2011 Final Four, Shaka Smart's VCU squad put on a breathtaking display of offensive efficiency. The Rams drained 10 of 23 three-pointers and turned the ball over just eight times.
Dynamic guard Troy Daniels led the way with 20 points, and typical top scorer Treveon Graham poured in 11 of his own, connecting on three of his four attempts from beyond the arc. Big man Juvonte Reddic had 11 as well.
But the real story was the Rams defense and how constant aggression and the use of the full-court press led to an uncharacteristically sloppy performance by the Bulldogs.
After all, VCU entered the game forcing turnovers on a whopping 29 percent of opponents' possessions, which is the best rate in the nation (h/t ESPN Stats & Info). For a team that is typically so fundamentally sound, the Bulldogs backcourt couldn't handle the heat.
VCU senior Darius Theus snatched five steals and kicked in eight points and a team-high nine assists to boot. He frequently sparked the transition game that got the Rams' arena roaring with pandemonium.
It took Butler star Rotnei Clarke (17 points per game) 15 minutes to get on the board with a three-pointer. He wound up making just two of eight shots from the field and finished with just five points. Forwards Khyle Marshall and Roosevelt Jones combined for 27 of the team's 52 points, and no one else scored in double figures.
The Bulldogs only turned the ball over an average of 13 times per game prior to this matchup. They exceeded that number in the first half with 14 giveaways, as the Rams jumped out to a commanding 45-21 lead.
Although Butler went on a 7-0 run to gain some traction at the beginning of the second half, it simply wasn't enough. VCU was in command throughout, handing the Bulldogs their most lopsided loss under Brad Stevens.
The typically resilient Bulldogs simply had no answers. They fall to 22-7 on the year and 9-5 in conference play, while the Rams move a half-game back of Saint Louis for the joint A-10 lead.
First of all, it's worth documenting this photo taken by ESPN's Jay Bilas ahead of the game, which formed an intimating hashtag for the Rams' visitors.
VCU's new seats for Butler. twitter.com/JayBilas/statu…— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) March 2, 2013
Renowned analyst Seth Davis highlighted the genesis of Butler's turnover problem.
Butler's guards do not like pressure. Not a good thing when you're playing a road game at VCU.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 2, 2013
Yahoo Sports blogger Jeff Eisenberg provided a humorous cross-sports analogy to a certain oft-criticized Dallas Cowboys quarterback:
VCU has stepped in front of so many passes you'd think Tony Romo was Butler's point guard.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) March 2, 2013
Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated cautions observers to not overreact to this stunningly poor showing from the Bulldogs.
And you can bag on Butler all you want. Then list for me the teams that would want them in a 1-8 game in the Rd of 32. #groupofzero— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) March 2, 2013
The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre shared a similar sentiment amidst the blowout.
Butler 30 point loss would be great. Perfect time for everyone to bail on Brad Stevens ... And then he pulls more magic, gets them to F4— Jason McIntyre (@TheBigLead) March 2, 2013
Glockner's colleague, Pete Thamel, tweeted some spicy commentary in the early going with regard to the Big East's proposed split.
VCU sending a loud message to the Catholic 7. You sure you don't want us? They lead Butler by 20.— Pete Thamel(@SIPeteThamel) March 2, 2013
ESPN Stats & Info brings it home with this stunning statistic toward the end of the no-contest:
Butler has almost as many turnovers today (21) as it had in last 2 games combined (22)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 2, 2013