Virginia Commonwealth was playing havoc with UMass. That's the branding, "Havoc," that VCU has put on its basketball style. And in Saturday's Atlantic 10 Conference semifinal, eventually won by VCU, 71-62, it went something like this:
With UMass threatening to defy its No. 6 tournament seed against No. 2 VCU, ahead by eight points late in the first half, VCU senior Troy Daniels, in the blur of fast-breaking, defensive-pressing chaos, fired a three-point missile that cut the UMass lead to 23-18.
Twenty-eight seconds later, in the next trip downcourt, Daniels lined up another three: 23-21.
Twenty-nine seconds after that, Daniels tried again -- same result -- and VCU had a 24-23 lead as the VCU-heavy crowd at Barclays Center went crackers.
"My coach and my teammates want me to shoot," Daniels said. "That's what I do."
More examples of VCU rampaging:
After UMass scrambled from its largest deficit 54-44 midway through the second half to pull within two at 58-56 with 5:23 to play, VCU sophomore Briante Weber knifed through the crowd of UMass arms and bodies to score a layup, draw a foul and provide a little breathing room with a 61-56 lead.
Twelve seconds hence, Weber stole a Chaz Williams dribble near midcourt to set up Daniels for yet another three-point bomb -- devastating once more -- and the lead was back to eight at 64-56.
"They were trying to push it," Weber said, "and we basically sped them into doing something they didn't want to do, and then it's being in the right place at the right time." He described the flashing, twirling 5-9 Williams, a Brooklyn lad playing before family and friends, as "smaller, quicker than everybody. Low to the ground, but he did what he did and we did what we had to to get it done."
One last Havoc:
UMass (21-11 and now left to hope for NCAA consideration) still had a chance, down 65-61 with the clock winding down under 1:30, when Williams cornered VCU junior Rob Brandenberg along the left sideline. As the shot clock hit :00, Brandenberg raised up and sank a three-pointer.
"That was the dagger," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "That was one of the worst quality shots of the game -- but he had to take it. That kind of put it out of reach."
To UMass coach Derek Kellogg: "A lot of strange shots go in. We had a couple go in for us , and that three in the corner put 'em up seven, with Chaz draped all over him. Sometimes, I guess, in big-time college basketball games, that happens."
Daniels finished with a game-high 20 points, followed by Juvonte Reddic's 18 and Weber's 11. (Brandenberg had seven.) Williams, his motor appearing to run at higher RPMs than all around him, led UMass with 18 points and four assists.
The taller Minutemen hammered VCU on the boards, 50-36, but a primary aspect of VCU's approach -- creating turnovers -- induced UMass to cough up the ball 24 times, compared with VCU's eight.
So VCU (26-7) advances to Sunday's A-10 title game against Saint Louis, a stripes vs. plaid matchup of VCU hyperactivity against Saint Louis' grinding defense. Buckle up.