NEW YORK -- Defense carries VCU, and Briante Weber leads the way.
When the nation's steals leader is wreaking havoc on offense too, the 23rd-ranked Rams can crush an opponent as they did Friday. Weber scored 18 points in 18 minutes, and VCU routed crosstown rival Richmond 71-53 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament."We haven't been confused with the Showtime Lakers in terms of the points we put on the board," coach Shaka Smart said. "We take points any time we can get them."A two-time conference defensive player of the year, Weber came in averaging 9.1 points. He repeatedly drove into the paint and finished in the first half, shooting 8 for 10 overall and pulling down five rebounds for good measure."I just came out with a mindset to attack," he said.Aside from Weber, VCU's best offense was its rebounding. The Rams had 20 offensive boards that turned into 22 second-chance points.VCU swept all three meetings this season between the two schools located about six miles apart."Anytime you can beat a team three times, no matter who it is, is big," Weber said. "To beat your rival three times gives you more bragging rights."Last Thursday, the Spiders (16-16) led VCU at halftime at home before the Rams pulled out a 56-50 win. But this one got away early.Seventh-seeded Richmond missed 8 of its first 9 shots and turned the ball over 10 times in the opening half against VCU's pressing "Havoc" defense.Weber, a 6-foot-2 junior, even made a 3-pointer after hitting just eight all season. His two steals were below his lofty standards -- he averages 3.6. With VCU building a 20-point lead early in the second half, Weber was able to get plenty of rest.The second-seeded Rams (25-7) face third-seeded George Washington in Saturday's semifinals.Just like last year, VCU fans came out in force at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, and just like last year, their ranks included Spike Lee."That's demoralizing for the other team knowing it feels like a home game for us," said sophomore guard Melvin Johnson, who hails from the Bronx.Johnson scored 13 points, and Treveon Graham had 14 points and six rebounds.With top-seeded Saint Louis upset earlier Friday by St. Bonaventure, VCU becomes the tournament favorite after losing to the Billikens in last year's final in the Rams' first season in the conference."We definitely came here with the mindset to win this thing," Weber said.Freshman ShawnDre Jones led Richmond with 18 points, and sophomore Alonzo Nelson-Ododa had 12 rebounds. Kendall Anthony, who came in averaging 16.2 points, was held to seven on 2-of-15 shooting, hounded by Weber."The defense was pretty overwhelming tonight," Nelson-Ododa said.And Weber's offense was pretty sharp, too.