February 24, 2015

VCU's Havoc defense thrived on Briante Weber's constant pursuit of the ball, and many feared it would suffer after the senior guard's season-ending injury in the first meeting with Richmond.

The 22nd-ranked Rams fell into a slump after that setback, but Treveon Graham's toughness to play through his own injury has helped them get back on track.

VCU looks to win a fourth straight game and avenge an earlier defeat when it visits the crosstown-rival Spiders on Wednesday night.

Weber was 12 steals away from setting the NCAA's all-time record when he tore his ACL and MCL in the closing minutes of a 64-55 home loss to Richmond on Jan. 31. That defeat began a 1-3 stretch for the Rams (21-6, 11-3 Atlantic 10), who suffered two of those losses with Graham out due to a high left ankle sprain suffered in a win over George Mason on Feb. 4.

Graham has played through the pain in each contest during VCU's three-game run and scored 24 points - 11 coming on 13 free-throw attempts - while adding 10 rebounds in Saturday's 78-72 win over Massachusetts.

"He's just tremendously consistent," Spiders coach Chris Mooney said. "Obviously he's battling through this injury. I love how he plays. He's relentless."

Richmond (15-12, 8-6) overcame an 11-point first-half deficit in the first meeting, largely because of its ability to handle VCU's aggressive press.

The Spiders committed 12 turnovers - well below the 17.6 per game the Rams forced entering that contest - while holding VCU to its second-fewest points of the season.

That snapped the Rams' 12-game winning streak and Richmond's four-game series skid.

"Obviously we're so familiar with one another that there are different tweaks we can make, but I'm sure they'll be very aggressive and ready to play (Wednesday)," Mooney said. "We'd like to do similar things like not turn the ball over too much and not giving too many baskets off of turnovers."

Rams coach Shaka Smart hopes his players will be level-headed as they seek revenge.

"They outplayed us that day," Smart said. "That game is over. We need to go in there with an aggressiveness and mentality of what we need to do against them at both ends of the floor."

Containing Kendall Anthony would be a good start. The 5-foot-8 senior scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half of the first matchup and is tied with Graham and Rhode Island's E.C. Matthews for fifth in the A-10 at 16.3 per game.

Anthony hasn't been shooting the ball well lately, though. He's averaging 9.7 points over his last three and shooting 29.3 percent over his last four after going 4 for 16 in Saturday's 56-48 win over George Washington.

Smart hopes that slump continues.

"(Anthony is) fearless, which goes along with his heart and toughness," Smart said. "He's never going to back down from the moment, no matter how big it is. You add all those things up and you have quite a heck of a player."

Richmond has gone 3-1 since 6-foot-9 forward Alonzo Nelson-Ododa suffered a concussion and fractured bone near his eye in a win over Rhode Island on Feb. 8. The Spiders are sixth in the 14-team Atlantic 10.

"We certainly miss Alonzo, but we feel like we've played well," Mooney said. "It's a big game for us outside of it being our rival. It's a home game in the conference."

Richmond has won its last four home games against Top 25 teams, including an OT victory over VCU two seasons ago as Anthony had 26 points.

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