NEW YORK (AP) — Virginia Commonwealth remembered how to play the in-your-face pressure defense that made the program an NCAA tournament staple.
One night after the Rams lost their way, they rebounded with a vintage defensive effort in that familiar “havoc” style.
Melvin Johnson scored 19 points and Treveon Graham had 13 to lead No. 14 Virginia Commonwealth past Oregon 77-63 on Tuesday night.
The Rams (4-1) led by as many as 14 and never trailed in the Legends Classic consolation game at the Barclays Center.
They bounced back from the first loss of the season against No. 12 Villanova with a 12-0 run that opened the game against the Ducks (3-2).
“I’m sort of glad we got slapped in the mouth yesterday because you should have saw the attention in the locker room,” Johnson said. “Everyone was humbled by it and was ready to get better as a unit and I think today we showed a good example of that.”
VCU had its havoc defense humming against the Ducks. Oregon, which lost to No. 19 Michigan on Monday, had 20 turnovers and shot only 35 percent in the second half.
“I think from now on, coach is going to put even more emphasis on us getting stops,” Johnson said. “You think of us, you think of a defensive team, but we haven’t been living up to it. Today, we put an emphasis on every single stop.”
Johnson hit three of VCU’s six 3-pointers and the Rams held a 40-31 edge on the boards.
Jordan Burgess scored 12 points, Briante Weber had 11 and Mo Alie-Cox 10 to put all five starters in double figures.
Dillon Brooks scored 15 points for Oregon. Joseph Young, who had averaged 24.5 points, missed 11 of 13 shots and had only nine points.
The scrappy Ducks fought back from the early hole — even as VCU fans chanted “Just Give Up!” on several possessions — and nearly pulled off the comeback.
Jalil Abdul-Bassit helped Oregon pull to 39-36 with a 3-pointer, and Elgin Cook, who scored 11 points, hit two free throws to make it a one-point game.
Weber halted the run with a three-point play on a crashing layup down the lane, complete with a baseline flex. JeQuan Lewis had a fantastic strip under one basket that led to Johnson’s bucket on the other to build the lead to six.
The Ducks refused to go away, with Ahmaad Rorie sinking a jumper off a turnover and Brooks’ 3 that made it 61-55 with 5:33 left.
Burgess scored on a baseline layup, and pumped his fist in celebration for the bucket and Cook’s fifth foul. Burgess sank the free throw and restored the double-digit lead, 67-57.
VCU tried early to turn this one into a rout.
Johnson made consecutive 3s to cap a 12-0 run that opened the game and gave VCU a lead it would never relinquish. Graham scored 10 points in the half and helped the Rams take a 35-27 halftime lead.
Brooks was Oregon’s lone offensive threat, hitting a pair of 3s for 12 points.
“We’re going to have to change our pregame routine,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “We haven’t had very good starts. Then after that, I thought the guys fought pretty hard. We just made a lot of fundamental mistakes.”
VCU: The Rams made only 15 of 24 free throws. … Under head coach Shaka Smart, the Rams are 38-9 following a loss. … Johnson, from the Bronx, had about 35 friends and family at the game.
OREGON: The Ducks were whistled three times for traveling in the first half. … Young made all four free throws and is 30 for 30 on the season. He led the Pac-12 last year in free throw percentage at 88 percent. But his poor shooting from the floor doomed the Ducks in New York. “Joe didn’t shoot well the last couple of days. He was pressing a little bit, but he’ll shoot better,” Altman said. … The Ducks played without leading rebounder Dwayne Benjamin after he hurt his left ankle against Michigan.
VCU plays Saturday at Old Dominion.
Oregon hosts Portland State on Sunday.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.