VCU and North Florida crushed any form of the stereotypical Monday blues with a game full of November Madness. From a barrage of threes to Escobar versus Tillman, a relentless game of basketball inside the Siegel Center taught valuable lessons for VCU to learn.
It Feels Like March…In November
As a fan of college basketball, this was one of those games that result aside you really didn’t want the contest to end. In one corner of the arena, North Florida entered with a bag of three-point attempts, every player in their starting five scoring double digits and J.T. Escobar causing dread to the crowd with every swish of the net.
Thankfully the Black & Gold had answers in the form of a fiery Justin Tillman and HAVOC applying relentless pressure. The Fro led the way to the basket alongside Khris Lane and Issac Vann as they damn near punched the Ospreys repeatedly.
With the game being played inside the Stu, Siegel morphed into a newly evolved Animal that hasn’t been seen (or heard) in a hot minute. While sitting courtside watching the action, I took in the voltage that was being shared by all of those in attendance.
There was a moment in time that I thought I was back in undergraduate days of the CAA reigns of VCU Men’s Basketball. Back in the day where teams literally dread getting off the bus because they knew what awaited them upon opening the door.
Monday night was full of adrenaline, nostalgia and a memorable occasion that resulted in VCU Men’s Basketball improving to 2-0 with a 95-85 win over North Florida.
Gutcheck In The Classroom
“Really proud of our guys. That was a gut-check. I told our guys if you give up 45 more points in the second half we won’t win.” –VCU Head Coach Mike Rhoades
North Florida was 5 points short of Coach Rhoades’ statement with a 40 point 2nd half performance. The Ospreys scored 45 in the opening 20 minutes with a working three-ball from numerous players and HAVOC getting tangled up.
A handful of time early in the contest there was a Ram that missed the mark or ran into a teammate on the perimeter off a screen. This grew into a concern quickly as the Ospreys not only kept up with the high-tempo style of play but they carved holes all over VCU with wide-open chances.
Perimeter defending is always examined with a magnifying glass when examining VCU. Just last season under Coach Will Wade, this was a primary concern that was constantly in need of fixing in the early beginnings.
40 three point attempts by North Florida on Monday night. Only 17 were successful to round up to a 42.5% which is worthy of props to the Ospreys since they had the green light from range. HAVOC kept the pressure on North Florida all night, however, VCU needs to expand that pressure out to the perimeter.
You Play, You Learn, You Get Better
Besides some issues outside the paint, HAVOC did exactly what the mission was in applying relentless pressure for 40 minutes. Jonathan Williams explained after the contest that VCU was going to keep doing what they do until the Ospreys started fading.
Once fatigue hit UNF during the 2nd Half, VCU threw haymakers, dunks, and even the kitchen sink. Williams was getting his points but he also was in search of the Ram with the hot hand. This VCU team loves to score and getting their teammates involved in the scoring festivities.
There was a moment before halftime where the squad went off-course according to Coach Rhoades’ blueprint. Once VCU bounced back to the plan, they were able to crash the boards, find the open Ram and keep the Ospreys pinned at a better rate.
With this being the second game of the season, the needs and wants for a taste of victory started showing. Coach Rhoades said it best with this quote:
“Our guys here with us…want to win. They want to win now but there’s a process to it.” -Coach Rhoades
This subtext comes from North Florida head coach Matthew Driscoll who doesn’t believe in moral victories but believes that you can win every day. During his post-game…conversation…Driscoll further explained that if you put the work in and make a positive change to society that winning will come.
The little details make a big difference. Where have I heard that before? Hmmm… Anyway, Coach Driscoll gave his praise to VCU for being “really really good at being relentless for 40 minutes.”
I would like for VCU to channel in a mindset similar to what Coach Driscoll has drilled into his squad at North Florida. Moral victories don’t matter; the focus and drive of the individuals on this team must come together to perform at a level that can compete against anyone.
Competing at a high level is in every Rams’ DNA. Coach Rhoades just needs to keep on helping his team learn more about the game to further push the bar to win every day.
Have Fun While Learning
“It’s good to come out with the win and you learn a lot of stuff from a situation like this and hopefully (VCU) continues to learn.” –Johnny Williams
The season is in its early stages and VCU is still learning. So far the Rams have learned that Justin Tillman wants to win and will do whatever is necessary to win. HAVOC is capable of applying pressure for 40 minutes but is working on advancing that to the three-point spot.
Plenty of offensive power is at Coach Rhoades disposal with any Ram capable of forming the hot hand. The team is displaying more focus during the game, better passing options and enjoying the game as a whole.
Now VCU will apply what they’ve learned so far this season and put it to the test against Virginia. This on paper is VCU’s toughest exam to date with the local ACC power making the trip to the Commonwealth.
Lace up the kicks and prepare for another relentless shift of VCU Men’s Basketball come Friday inside the Stu.