BROOKLYN, N.Y.—He’s known as an elite ball-stopper. He doesn’t score much — just nine points per game — so when his athletic layups and rare 3-pointers fall through the bottom of the net, he yaps, nodding his head emphatically and clapping his deft hands forcefully.
He is Briante Weber, and he poured in 18 points to lead VCU past Richmond, 71-53, in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals tonight.
“I just came out with the mindset to attack from the jump because the prior game I actually didn’t get to play that much, so I actually wanted to play this game,” Weber said. “I came out with a chip on my shoulder, and I was just going to attack from jump.”
Weber finished a drive through the lane on VCU’s first possession of the game, then picked Wayne Sparrow’s pocket and threw down a one-handed slam. By the 10-minute mark of the first half, Weber had scored 11 of the Rams’ 18 points.
Head coach Shaka Smart has seen his point guard carry a heavy scoring load just a few times this year for a team that ranks No. 117 in the nation with 107.5 points per 100 possessions.
“We haven’t been confused with the Showtime Lakers in terms of the number of points we put on the board, so we’ll take points any time we can get them,” Smart said. “Sometimes when you see the ball go in for yourself, your confidence starts to build. He started making pull-up jumpers. He made a 3-point shot on a great pass, and from there it kind of got the flow going.”
His teammates found their rhythm midway through the half and embarked on a 15-4 run that spanned just more than four minutes. But throughout most of the first 20 minutes, VCU’s offense sputtered with the ball in anyone’s hands but those of Weber.
The Chesapeake, Va., native converted 7 of 8 field-goal attempts for 16 points, while the rest of the team shot 7 for 28. Despite the team’s poor shooting display, VCU out-hustled and out-muscled the Spiders on the glass, 27-11, and took a 38-22 lead into the break.
With Weber playing a less prominent offensive role in the second half, VCU’s cast of shooters and slashers sustained the lead, which never dipped below 12 points.
Weber played just seven minutes in the second half, as VCU never felt threatened and began to look toward tomorrow’s semifinal meeting with the winner of George Washington-UMass.
His opportunity to log a few extra minutes of pine could prove beneficial. Weber, a quick energetic guard, harassed Richmond’s Kendall Anthony into a 2-of-15 night from the field and three turnovers. Anthony had played 34 minutes last night in the Spiders’ first-round win over Duquesne.
“Briante sparked us with great defense on Kendall Anthony, and that was it for us,” said Melvin Johnson, who scored 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
“Knowing that [Anthony] had played the day before, I knew we had the upper hand on him,” Weber said.
A well-rested Weber will only help one of the country’s best defensive teams wreak havoc tomorrow. And if the Rams receive another impressive scoring performance from their point guard, their opponent could be in for a long night.
“I told Briante when he came to the bench that the way he started the game got me going,” Johnson said. “I didn’t shoot particularly well, but I still was into it — I felt really good. I think when the team gets going, we’re really dangerous.”