RICHMOND, Va. -- VCU guard Melvin Johnson scored 19 of his career-high 27 points in the first half and sparked a big first-half run, as the Rams downed the Hokies 82-52 in a Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic game played at the Richmond Coliseum on Saturday evening.
Tech, playing its first game in 13 days because of exams, fell to 7-4 overall. VCU improved to 10-3. The two teams hadn’t met since the 1994-95 season.
Jarell Eddie and Ben Emelogu paced the Hokies with 12 points, but Tech shot just 35.4 percent from the floor and turned the ball over a season-high 27 times. VCU scored 42 points off the Hokies’ turnovers.
“That was a great win for them,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “The way they came out ready to play and the way their press is really, really affected it. We knew what it was going to be, but it’s hard to simulate that in a practice. We got in the game, and they did a good job with us. Before we could adjust to the style of play, it was a 20-point game.
“We fought back and tried to do some things in the second half, but even when we broke the press, we turned the ball over in the half court. Just too many turnovers. That’s a good team there and they played well tonight.”
Tech actually led early in this one, scoring the game’s first six points. But after C.J. Barksdale’s basket with 15:47 remaining that gave the Hokies an 8-6 lead, things fell apart.
The Rams scored 31 straight points to take a 37-8 lead. Melvin Johnson, a sophomore from Bronx, N.Y., hit five of his six first-half 3-pointers in the run, and he capped the run with a 3-pointer that gave the Rams a 19-point bulge with 6:03 left in the half.
VCU’s fullcourt pressure defense was just too much for the Hokies, who turned the ball over 15 times in the first 20 minutes and made just 8 of 24 from the floor (33 percent).
“It’s tough,” Eddie said. “They’re a good pressuring team and they were able to pressure us tonight. We were hoping to attack the press and break the press, and then get easy baskets. But turned us over in their press, and we weren’t able to attack the rim like we wanted to.
“You’ve got to eat this one. You’ve got to take it to heart and think about this when we go back to practice. We don’t ever want to have this feeling again.”
The Hokies, who are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation, hit nine against the Rams, with Eddie hitting 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. Marshall Wood hit two, and Tech hit 9 of 20 for the game.
The Rams’ Johnson hit 8 of 13 from the floor and 8 of 11 from beyond the 3-point arc for the Rams, who shot 42.9 percent from the floor for the game.
“We went to the zone, and we lost him [Johnson] in the zone a little bit,” Tech’s Johnson said. “Once he hit a couple, he was on fire. A couple of times, we lost him, and a couple of times, we were right there in his face and he hit them. We knew he was a good offensive player coming in, but we just gave him too many open looks.”
Making matters worse for the Hokies, they lost two players to injuries – Barksdale and guard Adam Smith. Barksdale sprained an ankle, while Smith re-aggravated a calf injury. Barksdale scored two points in seven minutes before leaving, while Smith scored three points in 15 minutes before his departure.
The Hokies will return to the court on Dec. 28 when they take on UNC Greensboro at Cassell Coliseum. Tipoff is slated for noon.
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