Reflections: Points Matter for VCU WBB
When the buzzer sounds the points matter. VCU women’s basketball is officially 2-2 early in the season. This team plays fast and hard with a strong focus on defense but their execution on offense has been the deciding factor so far in the wins and losses column. In each of the four games the Rams have played, the victor has produced an overall field goal percentage of 40 or better, while the loss has gone to the team with 34% or below shooting. Coach O’Boyle is still working on getting the Rams to consistently find the balance of getting their shots to fall and applying extremely aggressive defensive pressure. The Rams have a process that when executed efficiently achieves the desired result, but when it’s impeded creates an advantage that is challenging to overcome.
Last season IUPUI barely outscored the Rams claiming a 70-69 victory on the Jaguar’s home court. VCU was unable to return the favor when the Jaguars came to Richmond falling 71-62 at the Siegel Center. Every team has an off night and for most of the game, it appeared both teams were struggling to get into a rhythm on the hardwood. Both the Jaguars and Rams had double-digit turnovers with IUPUI producing 11 and VCU owning 14.
While both teams created issues for their respective scoring threats, the Jaguars were more effective in this game. Last year Mikale Rogers and Sydney Hall paired up to provide 19 points each in the win over VCU. This year the Rams were ready for Rogers and held her to 4-13 shooting and only 8 points, but she still contributed off the glass with 13 rebounds for her team. Hall gave the Jaguars a 21 point boost, most of which came late in the game when she got hot from beyond the arc. She went 3-4 in the 4th quarter and added 2 more in overtime. Danielle Lawrence filled the gap for Rogers and combined with Hall the 2 provided the offensive power needed to defeat the Rams. Lawrence led the IUPUI defense with 24 points on the night. An opponent with multiple 20+ point contributors has led to both home court losses for VCU this season. The Rams loss to Minnesota was led by Wagner with 26 points and Bell who added 24.
The Jaguars successfully kept seniors Isis Thorpe, Ashley Pegram, and graduate transfer Mooriah Rowser from contributing points. Rowser was 1-8 (0-2 from three), Pegram went 2-11, and Thorpe had 2-13 (1-4 from three). Thorpe helped on the glass with 7 boards, but these are 3 players who can help in scoring when the defense isn’t holding them back.
Mixing it Up
Coach O’Boyle has said that this year the Rams success will depend on her team being able to mix it up and produce a variety of shots. It will also depend on VCU shutting down opponents who can do the same, especially defending the arc, which has been an effective strategy against them. The Jaguars made 11 three-pointers to the Rams 2 and 6 of those came in the final quarter and OT. The Gophers hit 5 from downtown compared to the Rams 2. Those extra points count and if VCU can shut down shooters and create offense off their defensive foundation they’ll deliver results.
There is no doubt that VCU is a team with heart and they don’t go down without making some noise. Team Captain Keira Robinson has delivered standout performances in both of the Rams losses. Averaging 7.5 PPG in her junior year she is currently averaging 13.8. Thanks in part to big contributions in the games with Minnesota and IUPUI. Keira had 20 points against the Gophers and 19 versus the Jaguars. The most vocal of the Rams is proving to be a wise choice for a leader, but she can’t do it alone. Especially against teams with multiple scorers capable of 20 or more points a game for the other team. Camille Calhoun is currently out due to an injury and VCU was hoping to have her healthy and delivering in the post. Thankfully Curteeona Brelove stepped up last year when Calhoun had her season-ending injury. Brelove was the only other Ram to deliver double digits with 11 points in this game.
Robinson is delivering under pressure. She made critical shots from the field and at the line during the 4th quarter that kept VCU in the game. In the final possession of the game with the Rams down 53-50, she took an opportunity from beyond the arc and tied the score with 5 seconds remaining. The shot secured overtime and a chance to pull out a win.
Unfortunately, the Jaguars shooting was hot in OT. They shot 4-5 from the field, including 3-4 from beyond the arc. They were almost perfect from the line with 7-8 free throws made. In contrast, the Rams went cold from the field and only added 9 additional points. There’s a lot to take away from these games and it’s definitely early. O’Boyle is a coach that makes improvements and she’s got a team with talent and a deep bench. Early games are great for learning and making the adjustments needed for success in conference play. There are several RPI builders on the horizon so now we watch to see where the team goes from here.