SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A day after learning what it felt like to be humbled, No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth learned how to benefit from the experience.
After being virtually beaten at their own fast-paced style in a loss to Florida State, the Rams found a way to win with their late-game toughness in a 73-67 victory over Long Beach State on Friday in the consolation bracket of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Rob Brandenberg scored 19 points and helped ignite a rally that proved to be too much for a 49ers team that lost its fifth straight game.
The Rams (4-1) trailed by eight early in the second half before reeling off a 13-0 run to take back control.
"I was just trying to stay aggressive and just try and help my team any way I can," Brandenberg said of the spurt. "I realize that we had to play with some urgency at that time. It worked out."
The victory earned the Rams a matchup Sunday with Georgetown, the team they beat in the second round of the 2011 NCAA tournament to first land VCU's program on the national stage.
Rams coach Shaka Smart called it a "hard-fought win."
"I thought we responded well," Smart said. "Last night was a humbling game. And that's a good thing. Losing (is) not a good thing, but it's good to be humbled because it reminds you that you have a long way to go and we have to get better. "
Long Beach State handled VCU's pressure well at times, committing only 10 turnovers. But it shot just 7-of-19 on 3-pointers. It was the first of VCU's five opponents this season that didn't have at least 20 giveaways.
But where VCU'S defensive pressure failed it in the first half, the Rams began to succeed in speeding up the 49ers in the final 20 minutes of the game. It didn't always produce turnovers, but it did force Long Beach State into quick shots.
A string of misses triggered the 13-0 spurt that put the Rams up 55-50 with less than 12 minutes to play.
Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said it was a run the 49ers didn't have an answer for.
"I thought we controlled the tempo and were able to dictate the tempo for 35 minutes," Monson said. "That's all it took, just that two or three minutes against a team that dangerous, that explosive. Our margin for error was very small, and we used it in that three-minute thing and we couldn't get a rebound or that next play to get us back in it."
Long Beach State got the lead back at 58-57 on a 3-pointer by A.J. Spencer, but another quick burst by the Rams put them back in front 68-60 with 2:45 remaining.
A 3-pointer from the wing by Jones and another 3 by Caffey with 16.5 seconds left cut it to 72-67.
Long Beach State was aggressive in the opening 20 minutes and led 36-35 at the break. Both teams were up and down the floor in a half that featured nine ties and eight lead changes.
The 49ers weren't intimidated by the Rams' pressure and turned it over only three times. VCU was shakier with the ball with six giveaways.
The Rams were just 14-for-31 from the field but had five 3s to keep pace.
Smart said he likes the direction his team is trending in during its stay in San Juan.
"Our guys are only human, and there's been a lot of things said about them the last couple of months. Then they get that little number next to their name," he said. "But there's a process that goes into winning and there's a process into getting better. And I think last night reminded us of that.
"The way we responded tonight was pretty good."