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December 15, 2012

VCU wreaks 'Havoc' on Alabama

RICHMOND, Va. | The scenery has changed since Anthony Grant last coached from the sidelines at Virginia Commonwealth University.

That's where Grant spent three years as head coach of the VCU men's basketball team before accepting the job at the University of Alabama.

But since then, the program has undergone a makeover.

VCU's self-branded "Havoc" defense is now the style and "Havoc lives here" is the slogan, which stretches across a large banner that ripples across the student section before every game.

Grant and a depleted Alabama squad quickly found that out Saturday in a 73-54 loss to VCU in front of a raucous sold-out crowd.

It was the Alabama's worst loss since a 27-point beatdown at Florida in March 2011. The Tide defeated VCU last season in Tuscaloosa.

Saturday, the Tide (6-3) succumbed to the Rams' defensive pressure, turning the ball over a season-high 18 times.

"Everything we saw on film was about the same as it was in the game," guard Levi Randolph, who scored 10 points for Alabama, said.

Alabama continued its season trend of starting slow and uncoordinated.

But what happened in the first half against VCU (7-3) was more than a slow start, it was a nightmare for the Tide, which failed to produce a field goal in the first 10 minutes of the first half.

VCU's full-court pressure and trap defense forced 12 Alabama turnovers in the first half, which led to 13 points on the opposing end.

The Rams manufactured a 12-0 run midway through the half on the strength of back-to-back 3-pointers by Melvin Johnson and Troy Daniels.

VCU's defensive pressure, combined with the Tide's 6-of-17 shooting, led to a 33-18 Alabama deficit at the half.

"I think VCU came out right from the jump," Grant said. "Defensively their intensity took us out of everything we want to do, they were able to build the lead that, obviously, became insurmountable for us."

Alabama started to chip away at the lead, which sunk as low as 11 points when Trevor Lacey buried the Tide's first 3-pointer of the game early in the second half.

But the outcome was never truly in question. Daniels and Johnson hit back-to-back 3-pointers twice, highlighting a 21-7 VCU run midway through the second half.

VCU's lead grew to as much as 26 with 9:44 to go.

Grant spent much of the second half quietly on the bench with his chin in his palm.

Alabama was without guard Andrew Steele, who missed his fourth straight game due to a groin strain.

Grant went with a four-guard starting lineup to run with quick VCU team.

"A team like Alabama has really good guards," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "They want to play one-on-one so we had to guard one-on-one."

Devonta Pollard led the Tide with 13 points and eight rebounds. Rodney Cooper and Trevor Releford added nine points apiece.

Alabama has now lost three straight games heading into a game at Texas Tech on Wednesday.

"It's a learning opportunity," Grant said. "I'd rather find out in December what direction we need to go as a basketball team moving forward to try to do what we need to do to put ourselves in a position to win."

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