On Thursday evening against Louisiana-Monroe, we experienced the various sides of VCU Men’s Basketball. The Rams were able to hold off the Warhawks 78-65 to improve to 9-3 in an ugly yet highly entertaining contest. Two different halves, two different experiences of Ram Basketball.
A day after one stocking stuffer of a game, here are some thoughts:
1st Half: The Agony
Back To VCU’s Woeful Ways
As the game got underway, VCU looked like the Rams. JeQuan Lewis moved the ball around while the team kept working on creating a shooting opportunity. That opportunity was in the version of Jordan Burgess driving in for a layup.
Then it was back to the same old…stuff. And not the good kind.
Old habits die hard, especially from downtown. VCU reverted back to shooting desperation threes with 17 attempts and only scoring four. Shooting the ball in the 1st half was atrocious overall for the Black & Gold going 33% from the field on 12-of-36 shooting.
Add that with a ULM defense that forced 10 VCU first half turnovers and 14 in total was equally as frustrating. Forceful passing returned as multiple Rams aimed for that highlight reel assist only for it to be stolen away or fumbled out of play. Coach Wade and Ram Nation as a whole were experiencing a nightmare in the first 20 minutes of play.
Have No Fear, HAVOC Is Here
While offensively VCU struggled for the majority of the first half, HAVOC was able to keep ULM within striking distance. The full court press was working to near perfection as the duo of Doug Brooks & JeQuan Lewis grabbed 10 of VCU’s 14 steals. The Warhawks could not handle the pressure of HAVOC as VCU was able to score 26 points off ULM’s 22 turnovers.
HAVOC looked like a well-oiled machine against ULM. Players sprinted to the ball to administer pressure, guys yelled at each other when the pass was coming and dives aplenty after the loose ball. If Briante Weber was in attendance, VCU’s beloved headband would have been jumping out of his seat trying to check into the game. That’s how good HAVOC looked against Louisiana-Monroe.
There were a few flaws. Perimeter defending was better for VCU due to ULM not having a true three point threat. However, the pick and roll derailed everything. One pick, one roll, one pass, instant bucket. This ULM combo of success had Coach Wade fuming from the sidelines telling his Rams to fight through that and get back to defending.
Mo Alie-Cox quickly erased the agony that the 1st brought to the table with a huge #MoSaysNo just before time ran out. That was followed by a Jordan Burgess double-handed slama-jamma that woke Ram Nation out of a funk and into a frenzy. The Rams were still down by 2 as the 1st half ended but that sequence alone gave everyone in the arena hope.
Even with returning to old shooting habits, VCU was able to get the ball moving late. While HAVOC held ULM scoreless for a few minutes, Lewis was able to knock down buckets thankfully. VCU forwards were unable to establish a paint presence and ULM was outrebounding them. Mo & Fro kept working but the basket was not having any of it while Hamdy just could not put the ball in the basket.
In short, that was not a good first half for the Black & Gold. Even with HAVOC delaying the Warhawks from flying.
2nd Half: The Experience
Dougie B. Saved Christmas
What was on display in the 2nd half by Doug Brooks was nothing short of an experience. In truth, Doug Brooks performed as Dougie B in Dougie B: The Experience phenomenally well against Lousiana-Monroe.
VCU was in desperate need of a boost. One play or one player to act as Black & Gold jumper cables and ignite this rather sluggish team of Rams against the Warhawks. Enter Doug Brooks as if he just heard his entrance music while pumping up the crowd with his antics.
Shooting 5-of-6 from downtown off the bench for 15 points, Brooks no pun intended was running wild over ULM. This experience of Dougie B showcased what’s good about Brooks: Grit, Determination, and the 3 Ball. If Brooks consistently put in this kind of game from the bench while eating his vitamins, saying his prayers and almost ripping his jersey in two then VCU would have one fine tuned weapon.
Going into defense mode is something that Brooks loves to do. I feel as if he prefers stealing the ball over scoring just by seeing the shimmer in his eyes when a steal opportunity is present. When Brooks is on the good side of foul trouble, Ram fans can see some Briante Weber-ness in Dougie B. An in your face kind of defender who brings the pressure to you quickly and will not budge.
If you chit-chatted with me before tip-off and said that Doug Brooks would have pulled off this kind of performance against ULM, honestly I would have been 50-50 on assumption. Half of me would go back to previous Dougie B performances that had Brooks grounded in foul trouble, taking unnecessary shots and shining the spotlight on him instead of the team. The other side would have looked at Brooks and the ref’s whistle getting along with a workable three-pointer and maybe some show-stopping numbers in celebration.
This Dougie B: The Experience had the glitz, the glamor, the drama but most importantly…the buckets. Coach Wade and fellow teammates had to keep Brooks grounded and refocused on what’s happening on the court a few times. At the end of the show, Brooks played one hell of a game and Robby Robinson said it best in a conversation with me during post-game.
“Tonight was Doug Brooks’ world and we all were living in it.” –Robby Robinson
Truly it was Dougie B: The Experience. The good kind. The one Ram Fans would love to see on repeat.
JLew, Mo, Samir. Oh My!
As Doug Brooks provided a much needed emotional boost off the bench, the trio of Lewis, Mo and Samir got back to the basics. Lewis kept moving the ball while letting his defensive hands rip the ball from the Warhawks for six steals. Samir Doughty had a slow start at first but eventually the Philly slasher made his way to the basket. Mo Alie-Cox was able to establish his presence down inside and was cash at the line making eight consecutive free throws.
Things were back to normal at Siegel in the 2nd shift of gameplay. The players were enjoying the game, the fans were rambunctious in the stands once more and VCU looked and played like VCU. A sense of brotherhood was in the air with all the Rams cheering each other on and urging everyone to step up. When this team is on the same page and execute the game plan, the only thing that can stop VCU is VCU.
The most important result throughout these various experiences is that VCU got the W. This win against Louisiana-Monroe is not a quality win against a low RPI team from the Sun Belt. However, VCU improved to 9-3 overall with one more game left on their out-of-conference schedule. Credit is due to the Warhawks; ULM played a good game on the road in a rather hostile environment and plans on using this as a teaching experience.
As we draw near Christmas time, Doug Brooks hoped that Ram fans enjoyed what he put on display against ULM.
“I just (wanted) to send everyone home with a nice Christmas gift.” –Doug Brooks
Merry Christmas Dougie McBuckets. And Merry Christmas to All of Ram Nation.
–The Streak Lives!: Mo Alie-Cox with another three blocks vs. ULM adds another game to an impressive six consecutive games with three or more #MoSaysNo and chanted in the arena.
–Mild Hamdy: Ahmed Hamdy has only scored eight points in the last four games. Hamdy did not score against ULM and went 0-for-5 in eight minutes of play. A cause for concern in the paint?
–High Score Steals!: VCU’s 14 steals against Louisiana-Monroe tied for the most in a single game this season. The Rams got 14 thefts versus LSU in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
–Merry Christmas!: Enjoy the Holidays Ram Fans! See you on 27th.
Ram Reminder: VCU Men’s Basketball closes their out-of-conference portion vs. Howard in the Siegel Center on Tuesday, December 27th. Tip-off set for 7 PM on MASN.