Frank Erwin Center was adopted as a traveling Siegel Center in Austin, Texas. VCU Men’s Basketball brought their defense while Ram fans showered Black & Gold cheers, signs and plenty of noise that overwhelmed the Texas Longhorns. Besides taking their first road win of the season, VCU showcased that the Rams possess that VCU vs. ALL attitude and a defense that can win basketball games in crunch time.
A Heart Attack the Size of Texas
Breaking News: VCU upset Texas 54-53 in the Lone Star State. The contest was taken over by the fight and grit of one Marcus Santos-Silva. Santos-Silva went to war for 30 minutes and totaled a career-high 16 rebounds, 10 points, 5 steals for a career-high and 2 blocks. This was also the first double-double of his collegiate career.
Leading the Rams once again was Marcus Evans at the point. Even with a rough offensive output, Evans made his impact at the free throw line going 7-of-7 and scoring 16 points. De’Riante Jenkins had a six-shooter from the salon with four three-pointers in the first half against the Longhorns.
Texas did make a contest out of this duel. Jericho Sims led Texas with 14 points and was a constant offensive threat at the rim. VCU’s perimeter defense was a factor forcing the Longhorns to shoot 23.5% on 4-of-17 shooting. Issac Vann locked horns with Matt Coleman III on the final three-point attempt for the win that rimmed out at the final buzzer.
We Talking About Defense?
VCU was not having a good shooting night so the Rams doubled-down on their defense to win the game. On the floor at Texas, the Rams looked more composed in their defensive stance while constantly putting pressure time and time again. Texas was rattled late with turnovers being coughed up and VCU continued attacking to the delight/surprise of Ram Fans.
The eyes of the Rams showcased that fire deep inside their bowels and the mindset of finishing the job. As the 2nd half clock started ticking down, my thought was just that: Finish the job you started. VCU’s defense is improving at an alarming rate with game experience.
Marcus Santos-Silva’s grind and hustle were infectious to his teammates. No matter if the play resulted in a make or miss, VCU moved forward to the next one. Which is remarkable. That lesson appears to settle in these players’ minds which is do your best now, get ready for the next one, do it again.
Mike Rhoades put emphasis on the last 6 minutes of every game with an all-out effort on defense. VCU was able to end the game on a 9-4 scoring run and made things difficult on defense. That’s how you win ball games on the road.
Advanced Mental Warfare
“They should be distraught. They should be downright pissed off.” –Texas Head Coach, Shaka Smart
Indeed, Texas should be pissed off with their third consecutive defeat. The Longhorns were more than capable of winning this game by 10+ points however the mental game took over. Watching how Texas was too antsy and getting away from the game plan due to the fear of not screwing up was alarming. Not taking their time to find the simple pass, putting up highly contested shots, losing their marks on ball screens…hey, wait a minute…
Isn’t that what VCU was doing once upon a time?
Ahh yes. If both teams switched uniforms, there would be too much similarity on the court in the mix of the confusion of who’s playing for whom. VCU was able to maintain their determination on the road while also showing toughness against adversity. For example, Issac Vann was not having a good showing on offense but put his emphasis on defending at a high work rate.
Multiple Rams were doing what they had to do in order to achieve victory. Sean Mobley returning to the court and literally playing through pain to find the open man or knock down a monumental three ball. Corey Douglas and Michael Gilmore giving VCU that extra muscle inside the paint against those Texas-sized tumbleweeds. Each Ram out there playing together as a collective unit and executed the orders issued by Coach Rhoades.
Enjoy The Moment, Work On Another
Wednesday night definitely felt like Friday came early in RVA. Not only did VCU beat Texas AT Texas, not only did Coach Rhoades defeat Shaka Smart in a student versus master type scenario, VCU is now 7-2 overall which is great for what’s to come.
VCU is making a stride towards greatness while working on their craft. While the defense is in a good spot floating in the top 50 ranks nationally, offensively the Rams are working on consistency. There are such things as cold nights on the court but the whole team can’t be sitting in the freezer on gameday.
So what’s the fix? Well, you kind of saw it in Santos-Silva and that is crashing the basket. When teams cause a riot inside, the kick out becomes a viable option while the defense works on putting out the fire under the rim. Kind of similar to VCU teams of recent memory, feed the ball to that paint monster and reap the benefits from everywhere else on the court that opens up.
Other than that, VCU has shooters at nearly every spot around the hardwood. The key is consistently getting buckets in bunches on the regular which is a work in progress while winning. And that’s a small problem for the Black & Gold at the moment. VCU has the potential to be that threat on both sides of the basketball in due time.
A Snow Day in Charlottesville
So after that thrill ride, VCU now prepares for an exam at #4 Virginia. UVA has the #1 scoring defense (51.5 PPG) and their style of play can be quite annoying to play against. Fortunately, Marcus Evans should be ready to play Sunday after a bad case of cramps in his thigh late in the Texas game that appears to be taken care of.
Even with snow on the forecast, this contest should raise the temperature at John Paul Jones Arena. With UVA outscoring their opponents by +23.3 thus far, VCU is in for another tough exam on defense. The difference is that the Cavaliers are better possession holders than Texas and have the patience while moving the ball in search of that open shot.
Virginia is also undefeated at 8-0 on the season. What a win for the Black & Gold possibly right? The odds are highly against VCU but not impossible. If that same mental toughness from Austin travels up to Charlottesville, VCU has a shot at landing the upset.
“We talk about road toughness, going on the road and finding a way to win in someone else’s arena, that’s a big deal.” –VCU Head Coach, Mike Rhoades
The Grind Continues
For some Rams, this victory over Texas spoke volumes over the process being made by the Rams. As an extra bonus just beating Shaka Smart at Texas brought out a devilish smirk. In the bigger picture, VCU got their first road win of the year and it was a big one.
In order to make one become two, VCU goes back to the lab to work on leveling up their offense to the level of HAVOC. The defense can win games but an offense can put the game convincingly out of reach when working properly.
What VCU is doing is indeed working. As Sunday at #4 Virginia starts coming over the horizon, this isn’t a must win for the Rams in all honestly. Would it be awesome to hand the Wahoos their first L? Of Course. Especially at home. However, VCU coming up short would not be a time to hit the panic button against a very good Virginia squad.
With that being said, I’ll see y’all in the John Paul Jones Arena in hopes of a Black & Gold victory. And enjoying the heart attack that comes with it. 🐏
Sunday, December 9th at 1:30 PM inside the John Paul Jones Arena is VCU vs. #4 Virginia. The game will be broadcasted on ACC Regional and NBC Sports Washington.