It was great to be back in the Siegel Center among a sea of black and gold, even though I’m no longer wearing it, to experience yet another new perspective from a perch in the upper media corner. Things look a little different up here, especially the new center court LED boards affectionately referred to as “Havoctron” and the ribbon boards which both look phenomenal. Inside this bubble it’s more serious as people study media packets and prepare to broadcast, tweet, and document the night. Just a few feet away and outside of this bubble is the same electric energy that draws fans back game after game this time producing the 52nd consecutive sellout.
Looking at the stats pre-game for the competition I had a sinking feeling for the opposition – this poor team didn’t stand a chance against Havoc and the home court advantage that VCU enjoys. They went 6-24 in the 2013-14 season and lost all 5 of their regular starters. In addition to the newcomers on the court UMES has a brand new coach. They came into the game 1-2 with their highest scoring game (and win) at 53 points.
VCU obviously had the advantage after another great season last year at 26-9 and Head Coach Shaka Smart is in his 6th season with the Rams. VCU entered the contest at 2-0 with each of those wins at over 85 points. In addition this is a highly ranked recruiting class and there are a lot of hungry new players primed to take advantage of any minutes they get. Add the pursuit of breaking school and NCAA records this year and you’ve got a formidable force in play. Once you add the Peppas, Rowdy Rams, Gold Rush Dancers, and Cheer even a strong opponent will start to believe “It’s Havoc You Fear”!
Going into the game Treveon Graham was 14 points shy of joining an elite group of scorers in the 1400 career points earned category and is within reach of taking the top spot on VCU’s record books this year. If Graham can surpass Eric Maynor’s career 1,953 points this season he will become VCU’s all-time leading scorer. He added 17 points against UMES and is the 15th player in VCU history to have 1400 or more career points. He needs to average 20 PPG to become number 1 if the Rams don’t make it post conference play (and with their current record they should see action post season).
As predicted it was an easy contest for the Rams. The Hawks had won their first game just the night before and even though VCU played on Tuesday they had 1 day of rest before hitting the court again. The Rams have a deep bench so this was a perfect opportunity to spread the minutes out and give the freshman the chance to log some game time and with the very comfortable lead they maintained all night they did just that.
The Rams showed no mercy as they took the ball at tip off and Briante Weber sprinted off to the first bucket of the night putting VCU on the board with an easy layup. The Hawks took their first timeout just 16 seconds into play. The Rams would continue the offensive attack up to an 18 -0 lead just 4 minutes into the game. There were 4 different Rams with steals and plays with points in that timeframe. The Hawks got on the board with a 3 point shot and slowly added some numbers but by the end of the half it was VCU 61 and UMES 30. The Rams had already surpassed the Hawks best scoring game and there was still another 20 minutes of Havoc for them to endure.
The second half began just as fast as Jordan Burgess repeated Weber’s performance with a layup 10 seconds into play. It was quickly followed by a 3 pointer from Graham. The Hawks followed a little quicker this time with a layup that brought them to 32 points, but they still trailed the Rams by 36 points. Kudos to the Hawks for not letting up, even as the Rams steamrolled over them to a win of 106 to 66. So far it’s UMES highest scoring game of the season, and it illustrated that while we’ve added some scorers to the roster we can’t forget to keep up that Havoc defense that has become a brand in college basketball.
Here’s a few things to note…of the 200 minutes available freshman Justin Tillman had the most on the court with 25 minutes and added 10 points, 3 blocks, and 1 steal to the numbers. Freshman Terry Larrier played 20 minutes and was the top scoring Ram with 21 points. Larrier also added 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 steal. JeQuan Lewis was able to join the Rams again following his injury at the Tennessee game and he didn’t miss a beat. Lewis added 8 points, 2 assists, and led in steals with 3 of the 15 in the game.
This brings the Rams to a 3-0 start on the season and the lead in this game allowed the coaches to assess the state of their bench. Coach Shaka Smart gave his thoughts post game and said it was a good team effort and he liked that everyone got to play a lot. There won’t be many games like this where they can rest the older guys and give the younger guys real game experience so they’ll take the opportunity when they can.
Smart said “offensively we shared the ball really well and played with good pace for most of the game”. In regards to the defense “We started the game really, really well, but we had some lapses at different times and fouled too much – 66 points is too much to give up.” On the freshmen “There was a level of jitters (the first home game)…tonight they were able to just go out and play. They realize they belong here. Those guys got to get better at defense.” That pretty much sums it up. It was an exciting game for the fans, but coach is ready to get to work so that everyone is ready come conference play. Look out though because if the level of defense comes up on the younger guys and you add them into the mix with the older players it’s going to be tough to beat this team anywhere, especially at the Stu.
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