It was an offensive version of the Rams first game in the Garden, except this time it was the opposition who couldn’t quite get over the hump.
VCU held off UCLA in an 89-85 battle for 3rd place in the NIT Season Tip-Off in Madison Square Garden.
The Rams threatened to blow out the legendary Pac-10 program with double digit leads in both halves, including an 11 point advantage with 7:08 to play that quickly disappeared after a 12-4 run by the Bruins.
A huge UCLA 3-pointer with 1:48 to play cut the lead to one, but as it was throughout the entire game, Jamie Skeen had an answer. Skeen’s bucket, two of his 23 points on the night to go along with 9 rebounds, followed by a huge Brandon Rozzell steal into a fast break jam stretched the lead to five with 1:03 to play.
The Bruins continued to attack the basket, but missed the threes needed to get over the hump and watched VCU ice the game at the line.
Joey Rodriguez, who struggled in VCU’s semi-final matchup against Tennessee, bounced back by hitting big shots when the Rams needed them most. Rodriguez had 14 on the night and was a hot 4-6 from downtown.
Not to be outdown by his point guard, Bradford Burgess chipped in 15 points of his own and was a perfect 3-3 from long range.
The Rams were able to apply their trademark pressure that has been so effective this season, scoring 24 points of 21 UCLA turnovers.
VCU played a deep bench lead by standout freshman Rob Brandenburg’s 9 points off the bench. Rams reserves outscored UCLA’s 28-8 with only 7 points from VCU’s leading scorer coming into today at 18.3/contest, Brandon Rozzell.
The Rams move to 4-1 on the season and will look to add their third victory over a BCS program when they head to Tampa to take on the Big East’s South Florida Bulls Dec. 1.