The latest VCU Men’s Basketball victory over La Salle may not have been pretty however in those 40 minutes laid a valuable lesson for the Rams. As Atlantic 10 play continues, the Black & Gold learned that in order to succeed they must learn to play together at a high level no matter the opponent.
Hunters Became the Hunted
La Salle started the first half with one of the best defensive gameplans that VCU has seen thus far. The Explorers used their speed and length to not only limit VCU’s favorable weapons in De’Riante Jenkins and Issac Vann but also take out the leader in Marcus Evans. Not only did the Explorers hold VCU to 7-of-24 (29%) from the field, La Salle made it look fairly easy.
Which led to another problem appearing: Players trying to become heroes. Instead of working as a unit on the setback, multiple VCU players put on their capes and tried solving the issue individually. Evans hoisting up contested prayers in search of buckets, Vann going 1v3 and not being successful, and don’t forget to mention the 10 first-half turnovers.
Head coach Mike Rhoades wants his players to have freedom with VCU’s shot selection but he is not a fan of just chucking up shots. Doing that leads to problems in other areas such as defending and turnovers…which were shown under the spotlight for 20 minutes in horror.
Don’t Fight, Just Play
There was a switch in between halves. VCU came together and went back to the basics with a clear objective: Win. An advantage for the Rams was the fact that this game took place at the Siegel Center and got a much-needed boost from the Ram faithful.
“With the fans we have and the players we have, we knew we could get back into the game.”–Marcus Evans, VCU Redshirt Junior Guard
The basics for VCU is that gritty HAVOC defense mixed with pressure and hidden traps. A return to ball control as the rock touches multiple hands until finally arriving at its destination for a high-percentage shot attempt. Plus, the paint game got back into formation with Corey Douglas and Marcus Santos-Silva throwing their weight in the fray at the rim.
An extra bonus was the team player known as Malik Crowfield. Crowfield has become VCU’s man when it comes to asking for whatever it takes on any given night. Whether Crowfield is asked to move the ball, defend a certain assignment at the wing, or whatever VCU asks of him then #13 will do his best to succeed.
On this night, Crowfield also reminded La Salle that he can still bury a three-pointer when called upon. The energy was back in the ranks and the capes were put back under lock and key. Which led to the Rams improving to 2-0 in A-10 play.
You Are Not Alone
In the heat of adversity, VCU does get sidetracked sometimes to perform. Sometimes the Rams get blindsided by the opponent and their confidence. Yes, La Salle lost 10 consecutive games during their non-conference run and may have not been super healthy as a squad. VCU still has to go out there and get the job done no matter how confident they are.
With a young team that has taken leaps and bounds from last season, the Rams are still maturing in-game. Individually there are some talented guys at Coach Rhoades’ disposal every night. However, taking that talented core and molding them into a force that Ram fans are envisioning as a challenger for the A-10 crown is still in progress.
The underdog mindset Is present but that killer instinct needs to be brought out of VCU. They are aware of the 7th place VCU received in the A-10 preseason rankings. Things like that in addition to criticism, disbelief, and questioning if the Rams can really compete does weigh on the players’ minds during practices.
Not only do they want to win for the fans and themselves, but they also take a bit of pride of proving the doubters wrong; VCU can do that as individuals but together the Rams can speak volumes.
Heavy Waters in the Atlantic
Right now VCU is where they want to be at 2-0 and in contention for first place with Davidson, Saint Louis, and Dayton. The Atlantic 10 is already up to some trickery in the middle of the table and Saint Joseph’s starting at 0-3?? Who saw that on the docket?
Plenty of contenders amongst the pack in search of some breathing room in the A-10 standings. VCU has a tall order with a trip to Davidson for a highly anticipated battle of two decorated programs. Someone is going to be sitting pretty at 3-0 come Saturday after that final buzzer at Belk Arena.
As long as VCU does not come out the same way they did against La Salle, the Rams have a solid chance to conquer the Wildcats. Davidson is already feeling good after leaving Fairfax with a close win over George Mason.
If VCU wanted to become the hunters of the Atlantic, then they must be together as one. A road win at Davidson would put some bass on their hunting claim. Happy Hunting Rams, we’re just getting started.
Coming Up Next!
VCU vs. Davidson goes down on Saturday, January 12th at 2 PM on CBS Sports Network.