VCU Men’s Basketball officially began the 2018-19 season against Gardner-Webb University inside the Siegel Center Tuesday night. Mike’l Simms and Issac Vann put in work for the Rams to get a new season of college hoops rolling in the right direction.
It’s Chilly In Siegel
As the game got underway, VCU struggled offensively out the gates. The Rams went 1-for-10 on the floor to start the game while GWU shot 1-of-5. Sean Mobley scored VCU’s opening bucket from under the basket off the assist from Issac Vann. The defense was a different story for the Rams with a zone defense holding the Runnin’ Bulldogs and a block from Marcus Santos-Silva.
Head Coach Mike Rhoades went to VCU’s reserves in search of a spark. Mike’l Simms provided a glimmer with the Rams’ first three-pointer. PJ Byrd and Corey Douglas made some magic with an inbound pass by Byrd to Douglas for two. With a 10-7 lead, VCU went into the timeout still working out offensive kinks with a 24% field goal percentage (4-of-17).
Evans? Simms?? Vannimal?!
Siegel Center raised the noise level upon seeing Marcus Evans check-in for the first time as a Ram since his injury. Vann kept up the ruckus with a running one-handed jam to keep the Rams ahead. Simms still had the hot hand from downtown with two more jays from the three-point spot.
David Efianayi kept the Runnin’ Bulldogs within striking distance. The Big South First Team member collected a VCU turnover and finished it with a two-handed flush. He was not alone late in the first half with point contributions from Jose Perez off the GWU bench. Turnovers held the Runnin’ Bulldogs back with 12 first-half turnovers coughed up against VCU’s defense. VCU turned those turnovers into 12 points.
Downtown was the spot for the Black & Gold near halftime. Simms responded once again from three with his fourth of the half with 12 points in total. Malik Crowfield connected on his first three of the night and followed that up with a second putting the Rams ahead by 14. The glass was painted Black & Gold with a 26-16 first half rebounding advantage for VCU. After 20 minutes of work, the Rams raised their shooting percentage to 39% and led Gardner-Webb 38-22.
Silky & Filthy
Jenkins stretched his way for a layup to start the 2ndhalf shift. Vann sprinted through contact for an And-1 turned into 3 point play putting VCU up 20 points. DJ Lester responded with Gardner-Webb’s first 5 points of the half including a deep three-ball from the top of the key. GWU’s big man led the Runnin’ Bulldogs to a possible comeback while cutting the deficit.
Both teams had possession issues while attempting to get their offense clicking. Vann ignited VCU with a euro step layup turned And-1 and Michael Gilmore posted inside for his first bucket of the game. Perez kept GWU in the contest with a corner three-pointer and defensive pressure to force a VCU turnover.
First of Many For #2
Marcus Evans waited a long time to knock down his first three-pointer as a VCU Ram. Efianyi silenced the crowd immediately with an And-1 three-pointer off the shooting foul by Simms. Efianyi missed the free throw but Gardner-Webb returned to the line for more after Perez was fouled by Gilmore. Two free throws later and VCU lead diminished to 55-47 with nine minutes to go.
The duo of Evans and Vann led by a Black & Gold example. Vann took the charge inside to switch possession in favor of the Rams. Evans followed that by creating space off a crossover and knocking down a mid-range jumper. Minutes later Evans made his way to the basket and layed in his third bucket through contact to the sounds of Ram Fans cheering him on.
One Down, More To Come
Gardner-Webb hit a snag on the other end going nearly three minutes without a basket. Efianayi, Laster, and Perez gave the Runnin’ Bulldogs hope heading into the final two minutes with much-needed buckets. Douglas slammed the door with a block on Efianayi via a VCU block at the rim to put the game to bed.
VCU won their 13thconsecutive season opener with a 69-57 victory over Gardner-Webb. Issac Vann was VCU’s top scorer with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists. Mike’l Simms put up 12 points from the bench on 4-of-5 shooting from three-point land. Marcus Evans scored 9 points in just over 9 minutes of gameplay.
Rebounding went in favor of the Black & Gold with a 42-32 advantage including 17 offensive boards. VCU scored 23 points off of GWU’s 20 turnovers. Jose Perez led the Runnin’ Bulldogs with 16 points from the bench.
Next One Up!
Coming up next for VCU Men’s Basketball is an eventful Friday night at the Stu on November 9th. VCU celebrates Homecoming and the start of the Legends Classic versus Hampton in a Richmond Regional match-up. Tip-off goes up at 7 PM on MASN and ESPN+.