What was seen on the court at the Siegel Center Friday evening was a hoop dream that came into reality. Not only did VCU Men’s Basketball dominate Grambling State 94-65, the Rams turned early season question marks into highlight reel finishes while progress kept moving positively.
Tillman Close To Full-Form
Upon tip-off, there was a lot of pre-game chatter regarding Justin Tillman and his nagging leg injury. The Fro was not 100% coming into the contest and was in much need of playing time to get back in the groove of competition. Tillman only played for 17 minutes against the Tigers and yet he managed 14 points, 10 rebounds, and a block.
Oh yeah…did I mention he went 4-of-6 from the field and connected on a three-pointer? After the final buzzer, Tillman shared that he felt good being back and near full health. Yes, that performance was by the senior from Detroit, Michigan at possibly around 85-90% game ready. Yikes!
One more noticeable observation on #4 was his sheer determination on every sequence with or without the ball. On offense, Tillman was mad at himself that he couldn’t finish the And-1 after being hacked. While defending the rock, Tillman was more vocal in zone sequences and kept the Tigers off the glass. Simply put…Senior Mode Justin Tillman has been unlocked.
Role of the Seniors
Speaking of seniors, VCU can look forward to watching Khris Lane and Jonathan Williams evolve as the season continues. Lane may be a new guy for Ram fans to see however his performance against GSU brought back memories of a certain Freight Train. The Tigers could not slow down Lane as he bulldozed his way to the rim with speed and power; he also got hot from the three-point spot that built VCU’s ceiling even higher.
Williams used his skills as a promising triple-threat. His passing game has improved and can still finish drives at the basket with a layup or dunk. Man to man defending by #10 looked good and Williams vocalized with his guards about moving screens. Coach Rhoades added that he could have sat in the stands with the fans during timeouts as Williams led the charge in the huddle.
With 3 active seniors on the roster, Rhoades doesn’t have to worry about leadership on the floor. Tillman and Williams were able to calm down their new teammates and their nervous jitters upon the tip-off inside the Siegel Center. Each senior held themselves and their teammates accountable for every play and possession which is necessary to have a successful season.
A Bright Future On Offense
VCU’s starting five outscored Grambling State’s lineup 63-40. Each Ram in the starting lineup finished the game in double-digits and only had 3 turnovers on the night. There was even a point during the game where 6’5″ De’Riante Jenkins took the reigns at point guard.
15 three-pointers were made by the Rams with Malik Crowfield, Jenkins and Sean Mobley making three each. Bench production hit the jackpot on offense and Issac Vann…well…he broke the anatomy of the rim with a dunk to remember. The young guns didn’t look nervous at all as the nerves settled in and the focus was just on the game.
Once again the bench of VCU has numerous players that can produce at any time. On this occasion, points were on the menu and the Rams feasted heavily.
So…What’s The Problem?
While Ram fans can celebrate a Friday night explosion on the scoreboard against Grambling State, the fact is that this was supposed to happen when comparing the two teams. The Tigers hired a new head coach and are in the midst of a rebuild for the college program with 7 consecutive road games.
HAVOC was in working order yet there is still room for improvements. The full court press implemented pressure but not enough turnovers nor steals in a 40-minute span. Control of the glass was dominating however on some sequences the Rams didn’t box out the Tigers from 2nd chance baskets.
These are small concerns with no need for alarm with this being the official start of the season for VCU. Again this game versus Grambling State was a hell of a time watching it. Just don’t expect this performance to be a regular occurrence as the competition will surely increase in difficulty.
Ringing In The New Era
“We Can Still Get A Lot Better.” -Coach Rhoades
This was the final thought from Coach Rhoades before calling it a successful night. At this point, VCU Men’s Basketball is right where they should be as a team that is currently blending. Rhoades gave us the early preview saying that VCU is going to play fast, exciting and the Rams are going to win.
Well, they did just that against Grambling State.
VCU’s offense is beyond exciting to watch let alone play when talking to players. HAVOC has made its way home back to Broad Street and currently going through some upgrades. If you are a fan of the Rams, get excited while VCU continues putting in that work.
When you work as a team, desires and dreams can come to fruition. I’ve seen some VCU rosters from the past that had a true brotherhood in the locker room and during a battle on the floor. This group of Rams appeared to have learned how to work together and cheer each other on while the process continues. I’m gonna end this post with one of my favorite quotes from Pele that is very fitting for VCU and the progress towards success.