NORFOLK ——Nothing as shocking as VCU outrebounding Old Dominion happened on Saturday. No, the sky was still intact after the Rams' 59-50 victory at the Constant Center.
But the Monarchs, who came into the game averaging 14.6 second-chance points, were held to just nine as VCU won its first game at the Constant Center since the 2007-08 season and opened up a two-game gap between the Monarchs and first place in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The Rams improved to 15-5 and 7-1, keeping pace with Hofstra (136, 7-1 CAA), while ODU fell to 14-5 and 5-3 after just its second home loss in its last 32 games.
"It doesn't get any tougher in terms of a place where we have to go on the road and play for us than the Constant Center," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "For us to come in here and win the way we did says a lot about our team."
ODU, second in the nation with a plus-11.2 rebounding margin, opened up a four-point lead early in the second half, but VCU responded with a quick 5-0 run, capped by leading scorer Jamie Skeen's 3-pointer, to re-take the lead at 43-42 with 11:25 left. The Monarchs went up 46-45 on Chris Cooper's layup with 6:46 to play, but that would be ODU's last lead.
Joey Rodriguez's 3-pointer — the only one he made on four tries — gave the Rams a 55-50 lead with 1:56 to go, and the Monarchs didn't score the rest of the way. Kent Bazemore missed two 3-point tries after Rodriguez missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 52.4 seconds to go before Ed Nixon's free throws with 28.6 seconds to play sealed VCU's win.
"They really had some timely play out of some guys," ODU coach Blaine Taylor said. "… A lot of times, if you don't win a game, down the stretch, you probably didn't make some shots. We can only put so much on our defense."
VCU outrebounded Old Dominion 19-16 in the first half. The Monarchs ended up winning the rebounding battle by a slim 35-31 margin, with two-board edges on both the offensive (12-10) and defensive (23-21) glass.
Skeen paced the Rams with 10 rebounds to go with his 14 points while holding ODU senior forward Frank Hassell, who came into the game averaging 9.4 boards, to seven.
"That was my main focus, to keep him off the boards," Skeen said. "It seems like when he misses a shot, he goes right back up and gets it. He did that today, to, but not as much as he usually does."
Skeen had help accomplishing his goal. The Rams also rotated forwards DJ Haley and Toby Veal against Hassell, whose six points were seven less than his average of 13.
"Every time I turned around, a new face was guarding me," said Hassell, 2-of-8 from the floor. "I couldn't get to the spots on the boards that I wanted to. … They were hitting us before we hit them. They weren't surprised by our length and strength. They were ready."
ODU fell behind by seven early. The Monarchs tied the game three times, but the Rams scored nine points off nine Monarch turnovers to lead 31-27 at halftime.
ODU, which won two of three games against VCU last season, including a 73-69 overtime victory in the CAA semifinals, missed two chances to widen its second-half lead to six.
The rivals meet again in Richmond on Feb. 12.
"Every year, they're a top four team (in the CAA), and we're a top four team," Hassell said. "They came prepared to play this time. I've played them nine times, and I can't wait for the 10th."