Friday night at the Siegel Center has come and gone. Now VCU Men’s Basketball re-enters the lab known as their practice facility to work on a handful of problems. Maybe even a full load requiring both hands for carrying and productivity purposes.
What happened in an exhibition game versus Queens University of Charlotte was not your typical exhibition protocol. Usually, in these games teams test out what they’re working with against a decent but clearly beatable opponent. The Royals had none of that as the visitors walking into the Siegel Center. Their mission was simple: Play Ball, Silence The Rams, Win The Game.
And they did just that.
As a Division II team, Queens (NC) brought it to VCU. Shooting an impressive 49% from the field and 48% beyond the three-point arc; the Royals were accurate and just kept coming at the Rams. It was almost as if Queens (NC) challenged VCU to bring it who is very familiar playing that style of basketball for years.
VCU played from behind for most of the game searching for answers. JeQuan Lewis emerged from the ashes with a team-high 24 points and went off from three shooting 6-of-10. Justin Tillman and his lovable fro rose to the occasion off the bench with 15 points and nine rebounds. Siegel Center was rocking on the sidelines as minutes passed by with VCU looking to have solved this questionable agenda.
However, another problem kept appearing to the agony of us all: Turnovers. 25 Turnovers for VCU in this exhibition against a Division II school. Now think about that for a second. This was against a team that is not even on VCU’s level school wise. Yet the Rams made Queens (NC) look like the Royals was on an even playing field; maybe even possibly surpassing the Rams on that night.
“You’re not gonna win any game in college basketball with 25 turnovers. Our goal is to have no more than 12.” – JeQuan Lewis, Senior guard
VCU did not win this contest. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Rams fell in an Exhibition game. Queens (NC) left Siegel with a 75-73 victory leaving some Ram fans in attendance confused, shocked and hopeless.
“Story of the game was our turnovers. We didn’t throw the ball inside enough. That’s the strength of our team and we took half of our shots from three. Not a good formula for us.” –VCU Head Coach Will Wade
Now if you have been a fan of the Ram (Yes I Am!) for awhile this new era of VCU Men’s Basketball is a sight for sore eyes. Back in the day, the Rams lived and died by the three; from VCU greats like Eric Maynor to Jamal Shuler to Dominic Jones this was the code game in, game out. As college basketball has changed over the years, so did VCU. Now the focus is pounding that ball into the paint so players like Mo Alie-Cox, Ahmed Hamdy Mohamed and Tillman can go to work. Which is something that a lot of VCU guards avoided doing. There was plenty of passing around the perimeter but limited bounce passes into the paint.
Even more shocking is this: When you take JeQuan Lewis’ 24 points off the table, VCU’s forwards outscored the guards 34-15. That is with limited involvement from their guards in assists and making their own shots when possible. That is staggering and more proof that the ball must somehow get into the paint in order to increase VCU’s chances of winning.
Which is something that Coach Wade is looking to fix. Quickly.
“We got some work to do. Hopefully, we will be open to listening, open to coaching. We’re gonna change a little bit of what we do. We got too much freedom on offense…we’re gonna reel it in. Let me call a lot of plays and make sure the right guys are taking all the shots at this point. We’ll get that fixed, I can fix that real quick.” –VCU Head Coach Will Wade
Work in the lab aplenty on VCU’s turnovers because with 25 turnovers you might as well just not show up to the arena for Gameday. Most of the changes of possession may have come from jitters of the new guys playing an actual game in Siegel Center for the first time. Looking at the faces of Malik Crowfield, Samir Doughty and De’Riante Jenkins seeing that Black & Gold crowd in game form for the first time was picture worthy. They were excited and pumped up; maybe a bit too much with that freshmen trio collecting 8 of VCU’s 25 turnovers.
Besides turnovers, VCU must work on multiple things on both sides of the ball. Defensively the Rams looked slow and out of breath rather quickly. Miscommunications on pick and rolls lead to easy drives inside for Queens (NC). Staying in front of their man during man-to-man defense was not effective with multiple Rams missing assignments as the Royals took advantage of multiple three-point opportunities.
Offensively it was a bad shooting night for VCU. 37% from the field and 31% at the three point spot on 8-of-26 shooting; a prime example of the word “Bad”. VCU was able to get some of the shots they wanted but they just weren’t going in. Alie-Cox stated post game that overall his shots taken were makeable and he must finish better closer to the rim.
So out of all of this, is there ANYTHING positive worth noting from this exhibition? Actually Yes.
- At the Free Throw Line, VCU went 25-of-28 (nearly 90%)
- VCU outrebounded Queens (NC) 41-29
- The Exhibition Does. NOT. COUNT.
As VCU Men’s Basketball continues working on formulas in the lab, the Rams remain at 0-0. Yes, in the mind of a fan emotionally that L will be cemented in the craniums for weeks on end. For most of the Ram players when looking in their mindset it’s more like “The Game Happened. It’s Over. We Lost. We Got Work To Do. Let’s Get To Work.”
That mindset is something that will set the standard until the season opener against UNC Asheville with the result counting. Players must come together with Coach Wade and his staff of coaches to make it happen. Coach Wade mentioned multiple times post game the word Listen; his team is still under development with what they have at VCU this season. Meaning that the Rams as a whole have not fully committed under Coach Wade’s head coaching guidance. Which is something they must work on as a unit in order to win basketball games.
During their time in the lab, a leader must emerge for VCU. Now JeQuan Lewis did most of the leading however he was thwart by his seven turnovers and a 3 Point Play foul during crunch time that brought out some haunting memories against Stephen F. Austin back in the day. For the most part, Lewis put in the work and was in need of some backup. It’s not just a handful of Rams that must step up, it’s an entire working Black & Gold unit that moves forward.
So let the Rams have some lab time. Let them work on what was exposed by Queens University of Charlotte. Have Coach Wade look at game tape and come up with the blueprint and formulas necessary to have a winning chance against UNC Asheville. This is nothing that will change overnight, hours and hours of hard work will be needed to get this formula working properly.
The exhibition was exactly what it was: An Exhibition. VCU is still 0-0 and looks forward to righting the wrongs, fixing the screw ups and put the Rams in a winning position.
This is a blessing in disguise. VCU clearly needed that tune-up before the season gets underway.
Next Friday, time in the lab will be up momentarily. It will be time for VCU to show us what they have been working on inside the Animal.
Ram Reminder: Friday, November 11th is the big day as VCU Men’s Basketball officially opens the 2016-17 season against UNC Asheville. Tip-Off slated for 7 PM inside the Siegel Center.