The Smith Center and George Washington haunted the Black & Gold last season in the version of an 80-56 embarrassment at the Colonials’ mercy. Wednesday night was vastly different with VCU Men’s Basketball showcasing maturity, togetherness, and a defense that was downright smothering.
Lessons Learnt & Practiced
On Wednesday night in Washington DC, VCU took the experiences they’ve been through this season and sprung into action. The Rams got their paint general Marcus Santos-Silva doing what he does best by attacking the basket repeatedly. Which resulted in the fourth double-double of the season (10 PTS, 11 REBS) for number #14.
Even without a working three pointer, De’Riante Jenkins proved that he’s more than just a three-point specialist. Jenkins led VCU with 14 points versus GW from mid-range and closer shooting 6-of-10.
Two of VCU’s greatest hits this season made the difference: HAVOC and the Ram Army. Head Coach Mike Rhoades played 7 Rams compared to only 3 at Coach Joseph’s disposal for GW. HAVOC was lukewarm at the start until the 2nd half where VCU forced 12 turnovers; 6 of those coming from the Colonials in the opening 5 minutes.
Flashback To The Belk
While watching this game, memories of the Davidson game at Belk Arena started to revamp into my memory bank. That road contest back in January showcased VCU’s worse shooting percentage in conference play this season at 38% from the field.
That was until VCU finished this game at 34% on 15-of-44 shooting. Yikes. Add that with only three made three pointers and you may be wondering how VCU manage to win 60-50.
Part of the solution was VCU’s maturity when creating shots. The passing game was an absolute joy to watch with multiple touches by players and only a handful of rushed attempts. Marcus Evans and Sean Mobley didn’t run up the score however they were key in finding their teammates for scoring success.
Defense Wins Games. Especially HAVOC.
The other part of the solution was HAVOC in the final 20 minutes. George Washington was cool, calm, and collected at halftime while only trailing VCU 34-30. Coach Rhoades and company made a few halftime adjustments that clearly rubbed the Colonials the wrong way offensively.
In a span of 5 minutes after play resumed, GW turned over the ball 6 times. VCU only managed 4 points off those opening GW turnovers but there was no special science as to how that kept happening. All the Rams did was implement pressure on the right players and each Ram knew their role on the floor.
Coach Rhoades gave his players credit for playing tremendous defense. What also didn’t work in GW’s favor was of course Rhoades swapping out players to keep VCU fresh while GW was gasping for air and a break.
7th Place? You Mean 2nd?
Wednesday was one of those odd nights in the Atlantic 10. Fordham wiping out UMass by 18 and putting up 85 in Massachusetts. George Mason falling flat to Richmond at the Robins Center. Saint Bonaventure escaping Pittsburgh with a win over Duquesne.
All of these rather head scratching results put VCU in solo possession of 2nd place in the A-10 standings at 7-2. Davidson at 8-1 is still the top dog and with the tiebreaker over the Rams, the Wildcats have control of their own destiny.
From the VCU perspective, the Rams have tiebreakers over Dayton (3rd), George Mason (4th), and Duquesne (5th). So that battle for a double-round bye come tournament time in Brooklyn is looking pretty swell for the Black & Gold at this point.
Title hopes are still alive for VCU regarding the Atlantic 10 Regular Season Championship. While Davidson is heavy favorites at UMass and Fordham, trouble could be lurking in a couple weeks with Saint Joseph’s, Dayton and Rhode Island on the road. Don’t put Davidson’s name on that trophy just yet.
Maturity Through Adversity
In this crazy game of basketball, teams have nights like this. Offense can’t make even the easiest of shots, defense is a tad bit off-beat, or a toxic version of both coming together as a hardwood nightmare. Good teams still find a way to win; which is what VCU did at GW.
VCU managed to take a below average night of offense on the road and put their best foot forward on defense. Road wins are hard to come by yet VCU left the Smith Center with their third conference road win of the season.
The Rams now look to the Reilly Center in search of a fourth against Saint Bonaventure. One of the A-10 toughest venues for the visitors, the Bonnies have come alive at 5-4 smacked dabbed in the middle of the standings. Reilly Center will be rocking and obnoxious with fans screaming at VCU’s necks during the 40 minutes. Or as VCU would say…another day in the office.
This recent trip to DC shows that VCU is growing up. Players are now getting what Coach Rhoades & company are preaching and putting that into practice. Teamwork makes the dream work as the Rams keep on chasing A-10 championship dreams.
Coming Up Next
VCU Men’s Basketball heads to the Reilly Center in New York to take on Saint Bonaventure. Tip-off Is set for Saturday, February 9th at 2 PM on CBS Sports Network.