The way Troy Daniels was shooting, East Tennessee State didn’t stand a chance.
Daniels scored 33 points, all on his school-record 11 3-pointers, as Virginia Commonwealth hammered East Tennessee State, 109-58 Wednesday night in a non-conference basketball game at the Minidome.
It was the Bucs’ eighth straight loss, the worst in the Murry Bartow era and the most points they’ve ever given up in the Dome.
“That’s just a good, old fashion tail whipping,” said Bartow, the Bucs head coach. “It was pretty obvious very quickly who was the best team here. VCU is really good, maybe Final Four caliber. We’re just not a very good team right now.
Hopefully we can turn that and we plan to turn that.”
Daniels went 11 of 20 from 3-point range, effortlessly swishing several from well beyond the arc. He didn’t attempt a two-point shot or a free throw.
“I’m not surprised,” VCU coach Shaka Smart said. “If he shoots 20, I’m not surprised if he makes 11. He’s the best shooter I’ve ever coached.”
Daniels had made eight 3-pointers when he seemingly left the game for good with his team up by 40. Then, with his school record of nine, set in the Rams’ last game against Fairleigh Dickinson, in sight, he came back in and promptly swished two more. He returned to the game one more time, and when he made his 11th, it was an Atlantic 10 Conference record and equaled the most ever by a player in the Minidome, trying Josh Goodwin of Belmont from 2005.
Bartow, whose team fell to 2-11, said he had no issue with Smart for putting his sharpshooter back in twice when the game was out of hand.
“Absolutely not,” Bartow said. “Each team is trying to improve. Shaka’s trying to improve his team. I never take issue with that. If you don’t want to get beat 50, you better do what you have to do to compete and scrap and play a little better.”
Daniels has made 28 3-pointers in his last three games for VCU (11-3)
“That’s probably the most I’ve seen of a guy I coached in a three-game span,” Smart said. “A lot of credit goes to his teammates for getting him open shots. A couple of games we’ve played against zone and people kind of dared us to take those shots.”
Daniels, who also had 10 rebounds, wasn’t a lone assassin. The Rams went 16 for 34 on 3-point shots. Treveon Graham added 19 points and 10 rebounds Juvonte Reddic had 14 points.
Lester Wilson led the Bucs with 14 points. John Walton and Rashawn Rembert each had 11. Point guard Petey McClain made his first appearance in eight games after an ankle injury and played 14 minutes.
ETSU forward Hunter Harris left the game in the first half with an apparent injury to his left knee. Harris, the Bucs’ leading rebounder, walked gingerly to the locker room at halftime. When he returned for the second half, his knee was wrapped with an ice pack and did not return.
The Rams are two seasons removed from a Final Four appearance and won their eighth game in a row.
“VCU is really good ... good players, well coached, put a lot of pressure on you,” Bartow said.
The Bucs didn’t respond too well to that pressure, especially in the first half. The Rams forced 24 ETSU turnovers and 12 of their 14 steals came before halftime. They lead the country by averaging 13 steals a game. In addition, VCU out-rebounded ETSU 51-23.
“I ask my guys going into every game ‘Do you want to press?’ They never say ‘No,’ ” Smart said. “It’s important every game, but particularly if a team is down a guy or two or is somebody’s hurt, we try to take advantage of that.”
The Bucs open Atlantic Sun Conference play Saturday at Lipscomb.
“You just have to keep moving,” Bartow said. “Nobody’s gonna feel sorry for us. We just have to fight through it. I’ve never been in a year quite like this, but there’s 18 games left.”