VCU Men’s Basketball (14-5, 4-2 A-10) started their A-10 expedition into the Keystone State successfully. The Rams earned their second conference road win at a semi-empty Hagan Arena against winless Saint Joseph’s 73-60. Trap game avoided and part two of the Philly expedition upcoming is showcasing the Black & Gold returning to what makes VCU Basketball fun to watch.
Offensive Upgrades Pending
Even with a lackluster shooting percentage of 40%, the Rams brought their tempo offense well beyond Saint Joseph’s defensive limits. 12 Rams scored at Hagan Arena with scenes of the visiting team burning the floor and keeping that basketball hot on offense. De’Riante Jenkins and Marcus Santos-Silva gunned the throttle to the rack and Ram fans were delighted to welcome back Malik Crowfield from downtown alongside KeShawn Curry.
“As a team we’re playing with A.C.L. [aggressive, confident, loose], being aggressive, getting to the basket. My shot fell (tonight) so…my mindset was, ‘be aggressive.'”
-KeShawn Curry, VCU Sophomore guard
The offense is in a better spot for playmaking ability while making kinks on shooting attempts as a whole. Players are able to move the ball around effortlessly leading to good shooting to ignite the net at an alarming rate. Then there are the moments where some players force the ball against all odds or a play miscue which is fixable in due time. Additionally, the Black & Gold is gaining belief in their shooting abilities and letting the ball fly which is fantastic.
40% from the field is their second-lowest percentage this month since the Rhode Island game at the Siegel Center where VCU lost. VCU defeated SJU by 13 during an on-and-off night of offense. Not too shabby.
Tempo v. Tempo. HAVOC WINS!
Trailing 39-26, Saint Joseph’s thought the halftime adjustment was to give VCU a dose of their own defensive medicine with a depleted lineup. At first, the Hawks implemented traps and zone to get a few early 2nd half turnovers but eventually, the Hawk was on life support against HAVOC roaming on a second wind.
“We talked about hugging your man. If you’re one pass away, you better be ready to take away the 3, if it’s kicked quick. But let’s make sure we’re making them miss at the rim, and then running the ball down off 3.”
Defense is what VCU’s legacy is built on and this game displayed a strong foundation from coast to coast. The press was giving Saint Joseph’s headaches with Rams successfully invading passing lanes and reaching into the cookie jar for the quick fast-break getaway. Santos-Silva had the defensive highlight of the night stealing the ball from half-court and rushing the basket for the dunk. Did I mention Santos-Silva is 6’7” and 250 pounds running like a point guard?! Unbelievable.
HAVOC’s turnover tally after 6 conference games in January thus far is 93 opponent turnovers. A-10 play has brought the best out of HAVOC sitting atop of the conference in turnover margin at +5.37. VCU also sits as the A-10 steals leader with 183 steals and averaging just under 10 per contest. Ryan Daly who was leading the A-10 with around 20 PPG was shut-down to 8 points on 2-of-12 shooting. As VCU’s offense muster up upgrades, the defense is delivering at a high rate in conference play.
Black & Gold Paint Job
This was the third consecutive game that VCU outscored their opponent in the paint and it wasn’t even close. A margin of 36-12 paint points in favor of the Black & Gold is assuring that Coach Rhoades is pushing the Rams towards establishing a better paint presence.
Santos-Silva is the obvious centerpiece inside and finds himself in the top 5 of the A-10 in rebounding (4th: 9.3 RPG). His offensive arsenal and rebounding ability is a difficult task to stop by itself. Now imagine Corey Douglas and Hason Ward alongside Santos-Silva in close-quarter combat. Rhoades has started to test the waters with different combinations of 2 forwards at the basket and possibly can make VCU’s offense more efficient in the future.
While the scoring is going up so is team rebounding. KeShawn Curry and Mike’l Simms are setting the example for VCU’s guards jumping into the fray as the ball sails to the basket. This concept was a work-in-progress early in the season but deteriorated; in present-day, this concept is back with a special delivery. Watching Rams cram opponents while leaping for rebounds shows that VCU is taking their paint game to new heights instead of going into a battle solo.
The Fun Bunch
VCU having fun while working is what makes everything and everyone better. Players remain aggressive but finally are letting that self-implemented pressure for perfection simmer away. Rhoades preaches every single day to stay loose, next play mentality, and have fun out there. After 19 games, the players appear to have understood that message while playing quality basketball.
Yes, the quality varies from night to night and opponent to opponent. After all, the opposing team wants to win just as badly as VCU does. We’re two and a half months into the 2019-20 season and VCU is not the same team that took the floor versus St. Francis (PA) back in November. Which is a good thing.
Tapping into VCU’s potential as a team has been a challenge and will continue to be. With players like Malik Crowfield, Marcus Evans, and Vince Williams going down with injuries, that next man up cliché and mentality settled in amongst the ranks. Bones, Curry, and Ward have flourished with opportunity for minutes while Tre Clark and Jarren McAllister are busting their behinds and being rewarded.
The grind becomes infectious amongst the experienced Rams and senior leaders stepping their game up as if to friendly taunt their brothers to “Keep Up.” Knowing the hatred of defeat and the glory of victory while putting in the work and then some to claim victory after victory after victory. Not to mention the daps, laughs, jokes, and smiles shared amongst one another. Who said fun can’t be had while on the grind?
-Marcus Evans: Took a knock of whiplash on a charge attempt at Saint Joseph’s after being cleared of concussion protocol. Evans exited the game early but cleared concussion symptoms and is back at practice prepping for La Salle.
-Vince Williams: Hand Injury. He doesn’t need surgery but will be out of action for at least 4 weeks.
-Malik Crowfield: Clearly #13 is BACK!
One Last Tweet(s)
Philly Expedition Part 2!
A-10 play returns to Philadelphia for VCU Men’s Basketball on Saturday, January 25th at La Salle. Tip-off set for a Noon start on NBC Sports Network.