NORFOLK, Virginia — VCU and Treveon Graham were finally able to get going against Old Dominion. Unfortunately it was too late for the 14th-ranked team.
"This game is a tough pill to swallow in a lot of ways," said coach Shaka Smart after his Rams (4-2) lost for the second time in three games falling 73-67. "I think Tre realized the aggressiveness with which he needs to play. We need that all the time, not just when we get down and it's like, 'OK, we're down, so I've got to attack.' The other thing for us is this is a reminder we need to continue to get better in a lot of ways, but particularly on the defensive end."
Old Dominion's junior guard Aaron Bacote provided the most jarring reminder. He torched the Rams with a career-high 31 points, shooting 8 for 8 from the floor including four 3-pointers. Bacote also made 11 of 13 free throws.
Bacote's touch was contagious; the Monarchs (5-1) made 9 of 17 3-point shots and shot 47.6 percent from the floor.
Graham scored 25 of his 34 points, which matched his career high, in the second half. He hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds to draw the Rams, who trailed nearly the entire game, to within five.
VCU trailed 32-18 at the half and by as many as 18 in the second half. Smart said Graham and the Rams were beaten too frequently to the attack by their rivals from 90 minutes away in Richmond
"I did think our guys were a little bit flat, for whatever reason," Smart said. "But that's not to take anything away from Old Dominion. They really earned this game. We just weren't good enough; too many defensive lapses, too many breakdowns. We gave the way too many 3s early in the game. I thought Bacote and company got going from the outside and that gave them some confidence which continued for the rest of the game."
ODU forged a 23-8 lead with 9:17 left in the first half when sophomore guard Ambrose Mosley sank consecutive 3-pointers.
From there, VCU got no closer than 11 points until about three minutes remained in the game, when the Rams launched a frantic finish.
VCU never effectively employed its "Havoc" full-court pressure defense. The Rams entered the day forcing opponents into 18 turnovers per game and averaging 10 steals. But ODU committed just 12 turnovers and VCU collected only five steals, three by senior guard Briante Weber, the NCAA's active leader in steals.
Graham scored 19 of his 34 points in the final 4:14 of the game.
VCU: Saturday was the 90th meeting between the schools. VCU had won the last four in the series and leads overall 47-43. ... Mo Alie-Cox had 13 rebounds for VCU.
Old Dominion: The Monarchs defeated their first top-20 opponent since they beat No. 8 Georgetown in the 2009-10 season. ... ODU blocked six of the Rams' shots, four by senior forward Richard Ross.
VCU visits Illinois State on Tuesday
ODU plays at George Mason on Wednesday.