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The Day After: Lost For Words

The Day After: Lost For Words

4-0 in Atlantic 10 Play. Eight Consecutive Victories. VCU Men’s Basketball literally has me lost for words a day after the Rams unleashed a 30 + thrashing upon George Washington inside the Siegel Center. Maybe VCU should have 6 PM tip-offs more often or maybe this stacked herd of Rams is putting the Atlantic 10 on notice.

(GAME RECAP: VCU Wrecks The Paint Versus GW)

Serious Times, Serious Fro

Justin Tillman of VCU Men’s Basketball is already a fan favorite thanks to his high-octane style of play along with his eye-dropping afro. The Fro out of Detroit, Michigan collected his seventh career double-double against GW with a team-high 20 points and 13 rebounds. Many of Ram Nation know exactly who Justin Tillman is but now it seems as Tillman is leveling up in front of our eyes.

VCU Head Coach Will Wade stated during preparations for George Washington earlier in the week, Tillman would be marking Tyler Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh is no stranger to the Black & Gold and came into the game leading GW in scoring at 16.9 PPG. Tillman & Wade studied tape on the Colonials’ #34 and during that process Wade noticed that the Fro was taking the game more serious than usual.

That seriousness in preparation for Tillman came out in full display upon showtime. Not only did the Fro hold Cavanaugh to a season-low 6 points and made the graduating senior foul out, Tillman showed the world who he was. Out of his 20 points, Tillman went 10-of-15 from the field and only had 2 turnovers. For a forward to have that kind of performance at the college level is very impressive.

When you put the work in, results will eventually come your way. Justin Tillman according to multiple Rams and Coach Wade himself said that the big man out of the Motor City is a true workhorse in the paint. We’ve seen glimpses of greatness from Tillman throughout his career but his performance against George Washington on Wednesday night was truly unbelievable.

Almost as unbelievable as that thunderous alley-oop finish seen HERE!

Tillman is a competitor and he doesn’t care when he enters the game. When #4 of the Black & Gold comes in, the Fro will bring it.

“Just going out and playing with a chip on my shoulder. Playing hard from the start of the game. As soon as I get in whether I start or come off the bench, just bring energy for the team.” –Justin Tillman

Proceed To The Paint With Caution

Alongside Tillman, VCU has a ferocious paint game that appears to be getting stronger week in and week out. Against the Colonials, the Rams outscored GW 48-22 from inside the paint. Tillman scored 20, Mo Alie-Cox added 14 and Hamdy collected 9 points from the bench.

There should be caution tape surrounding the painted rectangle as a warning for the opposition. When the Rams start feeding the ball inside to collect baskets, it’s a task to try and stop production. Especially now at this time with multiple Rams scoring from any spot in the box.

Mo Alie-Cox was VCU’s paint enforcer last season. In order for VCU to set up a paint perimeter, the process had to start with Mo. Some games the plan worked while others showed the Rams falling flat on their face. Fast forwarding to present day, VCU has Mo, Fro and Hamdy inside that can do damage while JeQuan Lewis and Jonathan Williams feed them the ball.

Not to mention that Lewis & Williams aren’t afraid of going inside to help their forwards. With multiple Rams having the ability to establish paint control for the Black & Gold, things can get quite hairy trying to find a solution. VCU has now become what some of us have never thought we would see: A team where the 3 Ball is NOT the primary shooting option.

Granted VCU’s paint game is not perfect. Team rebounding is good however against George Washington it was missing in action in the first half. 26-16 in the rebounding battle for GW at halftime and after Coach Wade “explained” his disliking of that, the Rams went back inside to collect.

This current streak of Ws could be what Ahmed Hamdy needed. Hamdy had a cold string of performances early in the season which may have led the senior transfer sitting out for the game vs Howard. That game reset turned Hamdy around with improvements on defense and establishing a softer touch at the rim on offense. Hamdy Strong may be returning to the paint as if VCU needed another weapon inside.

Ruthless aggression from within is working for the Rams. Forwards and guards gunning to the basket is a sight to see and one hell of a task to defend. As VCU continues to develop their strength, the opposition keeps knocking in hopes of derailing the Rams. So far that hasn’t worked during this previous eight-game stretch.

Don’t Get Cocky

VCU loves that winning feeling and despises the disappointment that looms with defeat. This team knows that the target on their backs enlarges as VCU continues winning. The Rams also know this: Remembering what led to those victories, continue working and stay hungry.

“(We have to) stay on edge basically. Don’t get too big-headed because we had some lows this year like Illinois, Georgia Tech…always stay on edge and just remember what that losing feeling feel like so you don’t have that again.” –Jonathan Williams

Missed opportunities are tough to swallow. The way you act after a defeat speaks much about a team’s overall composure during tough times. VCU has shown that the Rams are more than capable of doing great things right here and right now.

According to Mo Alie-Cox, VCU’s mindset during the game is leaving the arena 1-0 every night. No overall record, no past history, nothing. Just one mission and that is to leave the court as the victor; no matter the opponent or odds. That is the mindset of a champion in the making if things continue to move forward for the Black & Gold.

Sometimes a defeat can teach valuable lessons. Losing to Georgia Tech and Illinois seemed to have humbled the Rams in taking the game seriously. Staying aggressive for 40 minutes while valuing possession and cashing in on scoring chances. At the end of it all, this is college basketball where any team can beat anyone on a certain night. VCU aims to not becoming part of an upset special anytime soon.

Rams Are Rolling Until?

My oh my it’s a good time to be a VCU fan huh? The Rams as I’m typing this up sit in #28 on the RPI Ranking table for the highest in the Atlantic 10. VCU is also in possession of first place in the A-10. Cloud 9 is raining Black & Gold currently as the Rams continue to soar upwards.

For how long?

That little thought hidden somewhere in the back of your cranium is popping up. In reality, VCU is in the driver’s seat to answer that loathing question. Ideally, Ram fans would love for this streak to run wild all the way to the National Championship. Who knows?

VCU does have a tough test awaiting them at Davidson. The Rams will need to play and execute their best road basketball of the season at Belk Arena. From Peyton Aldridge to Jack Gibbs leading Davidson’s offense, this is a trap game capable of halting the Rams’ streak.

If the Rams leave Belk Arena with their ninth consecutive win, the sky is the limit for VCU; proven road warriors are the Rams with a 2-0 A-10 record on the road this season. This is going to be an entertaining battle between teams with some history.

Kick Back & Enjoy

Words are limited in analyzing VCU Men’s Basketball on what needs improvement. The team as a whole are on another level of improvements which is an absolute joy to watch. Rebounding had a slight hiccup vs. GW but no need to punch the panic button just yet.

Turnovers are down, paint production continues to rise and overall VCU is having fun playing the game. Watching players smile and laugh while grabbing another steal, communication on pick-and-rolls, nearly everything is in working order for the Rams.

Am I dreaming? No. You are watching the work ethic of this team in action.

Coach Wade is a lover of details. Any angle or inch he can tweak to making something better Wade will do without question. VCU is a better team because of that trait. VCU will continue being that blue-collar wrecking crew that clocks in and clocks out after completing the tasks at hand.

Take all of this in Ram Fans. This is fun; so enjoy it.

Breakaway Takeaways

The Injury Bug: Torey Burston suffered a shin injury in shootaround before the GW game and Marquell Fraser is playing through a minor knee injury. Adding that with De’Riante Jenkins sidelined with his foot injury and the injury bug is starting to become an annoyance for VCU currently.

High Hopes For De’Riante: Speaking of De’Riante Jenkins, Coach Wade had high praise on his recovery progress. Jenkins is progressing well while working out with the team and has a great attitude during all this according to Wade. In addition, Wade mentioned that De’Riante Jenkins has a bright future with VCU upon his return.

The Atlantic Fro Conference: Justin Tillman is now averaging 70% (106-of-152) from the field against Atlantic 10 opponents since the 2015-16 season (25 games). That’s just…Wow.

12-to-1 Odds: JeQuan Lewis & Jonathan Williams averaged 12 total assists to just one solo turnover against GW. #ValueTheRock

Non-Stop Highlight Reel: A Sports Center Top 10 Dunk by Justin Tillman, JeQuan Lewis dunking, Hamdy with the emphatic NO! So many highlights for a 6 PM Game; check out the GALLERY!

Ram Reminder: VCU Men’s Basketball goes back on the road on Saturday, January 14th to battle Davidson. Tip-Off is set for 2 PM on CBS Sports Network.


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