RICHMOND — Because both Old Dominion and VCU hang their hats on defense, the Colonial Athletic Association's fiercest rivalry figured to hinge on shot-making and ball protection.
Whether the Rams asserted themselves or ODU lacked in both areas is open for debate. What's indisputable was VCU's second-half control on the way to a convincing 61-48 win Saturday at the sold-out Siegel Center.
The Monarchs (11-9, 6-2 CAA) committed a season-high 25 turnovers and went 10 minutes without a basket in the second half, effectively surrendering their share of first place in the conference.
ODU's 48 points were its second-lowest total of the season, just two more than in a 63-46 loss to Northern Iowa on Nov. 12, when its roster and lineup were in a much greater state of flux than at present.
VCU, fortunate to escape Thursday against William and Mary in overtime, featured an unpredictably balanced attack. Leading scorer Bradford Burgess, saddled with foul trouble, managed only two points, but all eight Rams who played double-figure minutes scored and contributed.
Troy Daniels led the Rams (15-5, 6-2 CAA) with 16 points and offensively keyed the decisive second-half stretch. He hit three 3-pointers in a three-minute span as VCU turned a 38-35 lead into a 49-35 cushion. He made 4 of 9 attempts from behind the arc after totaling just five 3-pointers in his previous four games.
Kent Bazemore led ODU with 15 points and Chris Cooper added 14, though Bazemore contributed to the Monarchs' struggles. The 6-foot-5 senior, the preseason Player of the Year, hit just 6 of 15 shots and committed seven turnovers, four during the three-minute span when the Rams broke open the game.
Bazemore's first turnover of the span led to Daniels' first 3-pointer, from the left wing. After an ODU timeout, the Monarchs' Trian Iliadis attempted an alley-oop pass that Bazemore was unable to handle.
Daniels drilled another 3-pointer from the left corner to push the lead to 44-35 with 13:02 left. After an ODU miss, freshman guard Briante Weber, the shortest player on the floor, stuck back his own missed layup attempt.
ODU had a miss and two more turnovers on its next three possessions. Daniels concluded the run with another 3-pointer and a 49-35 lead with 10:43 remaining.
The Monarchs, meanwhile, were in the midst of a 10-minute field goal drought. Cooper finally ended the run with a layup, pulling ODU within 51-42. But any hopes of a comeback vanished with another span that included two misses and five turnovers.
VCU, while hardly efficient, got a three-point play from Darius Theus (12 points) and a layup from Rob Brandenberg that pushed the lead to 56-42.
VCU finally gained some separation late in the first half, despite the fact that Burgess sat the final nine minutes after picking up his second foul.
The Rams gradually assembled an 11-2 run as Brandenberg and Weber combined for nine points. They led 32-23 until Cooper tipped in a Richard Ross miss just before the buzzer.
ODU contributed to its own troubles with as many turnovers as field goals (11). VCU didn't shoot well enough to get into its full-court press regularly, but the Monarchs too often were sloppy in their half-court sets as well as the open court when the Rams were able to press.
The Monarchs have little time to ponder Saturday's loss, since they host Northeastern on Monday at the Constant Center.