VCU was in the spirit of giving and Buffalo also felt the Christmas spirit gifting turnover after turnover to the Rams on Tuesday Night. HAVOC returned to its winning ways with a 90-69 victory for the Black & Gold to delight of 7,637 fans at the Siegel Center.
HAVOC went back to the basics and was rewarded heavily. VCU successfully forced 31 turnovers from Buffalo (a season-high), racked up 18 steals (#NachoTime at Baja Bean) and swat the ball four times. From man to man to zone defense along with some traps, VCU leveled up their defense to the delight of those in attendance cheering on the Rams. A great defensive display for the Black & Gold and Buffalo had no idea how to stop it.
Buffalo had another issue as well: Stopping Melvin Johnson. The Bulls were able to slow Johnson down at the start with a few double teams and rotating man on man versus #32. Once Melvin hit a money ball from downtown, it was all she wrote. Johnson repeatedly made Buffalo pay from behind the arc in the 2nd half and finished the night with a team high 22 points. He understood that Buffalo was going to try and smother him similarly to what Cincinnati did last game so Johnson worked on getting his teammates more involved. Then once Johnson saw his scoring opportunity, he answered the call.
As a team, VCU had answers for nearly everything the Bulls threw at them. Billbury played another good game with 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. JeQuan Lewis and Justin Tillman made one hell of a tag team that included a thunderous alley-oop jam by Tillman worthy of SC Top 10 nomination. Michael Gilmore played well alongside Mo Alie-Cox and then you had Doug Brooks, Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed and Jonathan Williams providing firepower from the VCU Bench. For Buffalo head coach Nate Oats, Tuesday night was a Black & Gold nightmare for him and his team.
“That was a disaster. We had 31 turnovers. You can’t win a game turning the ball over 31 times…we didn’t prepare well enough. You can’t win a game with (VCU) scoring 40 points off turnovers. It was disappointing…we just had a lot of guys not play well. It was a bad night to have your guards not play well in a place like this.” –Buffalo Head Coach Nate Oats
For VCU Head Coach Will Wade, his disappointment also sprung from his team’s turnovers. VCU had 19 turnovers on the night for the second highest turnover total of the season (20 at FSU). A majority of those VCU turnovers was from the victim of bad passing. Throwing the ball in areas where it was just waiting to be picked off by one of the boys in blue was frustrating. Things got better passing wise in the 2nd half for the Rams thankfully but the first 20 minutes was rough.
Words can’t truly describe what that 1st half was on Tuesday but we’re gonna give it the ‘ol college try. After the opening tip, there was bucket trading followed by some ugly basketball. Turnovers left and right for both teams accompanied by bad shooting. Even the elementary layups either bounced too hard of the glass or spun out the rim. Then the bad changed to good once Buffalo got into early foul trouble with Ikenna Smart earning three fouls. VCU got the green light and then a JeQuan-Tillman alley-oop later the Rams were on a roll heading into half-time. So good basketball with a side of ugly grit? Let’s go with that.
The good outweighed the ugly from VCU. As a whole for the Rams, progress is in steady motion as the players are starting to do well on offense consecutively. Even with Melvin Johnson the target on many scouting reports to shut down, VCU on this night didn’t suffer and found players that we able to deliver buckets in bunches. HAVOC looked great causing all sorts of problems for Buffalo leading to 20 fast break points and 40 points off those Buffalo turnovers for the Rams. Above all else, VCU got the win.
“Thought we played better. We stuck with the same formula. We pounded it in the paint…took pretty good shots most of the night. We have been better with details; we still got some stuff to clean up. I told our guys before the game just like Al Davis man, ‘Just Win Baby.’ We gotta just find a way to win.” –VCU Head Coach Will Wade
Wade is still a believer in his plan with VCU and after this victory it’s hard to argue against him. There are still things within this game formula under examination and VCU is starting to play better under this chemistry. Even a ripped Mo Alie-Cox jersey can’t hold this Black & Gold onslaught that is starting to warm up. VCU knows that their opponents are gunning at Melvin to stop his offense and the Rams are more than capable at finding someone else to put points on the board.
“Right now I’m putting myself in the other team’s shoes. That’s why I feel Korey and guys like JeQuan (are) really about to explode because if you deny me we have plenty of good players.” –Melvin Johnson
“Everybody from now on for the rest of the season are gonna start double teaming Melvin and try to take him out. But what they (don’t) understand is that we have a lot of other players that can score the ball really well.” –JeQuan Lewis
Winning does heal in college basketball. This win is a step in the right direction for VCU on this long road of a season. Working on the little things and the results are starting show which gives fans hope that a turnaround is on the horizon. With two home games remaining in out-of-conference play, the message is simple: Just Win VCU, Just Win.
Holiday HAVOC made fans feel like winners on Tuesday but Coach Wade felt that the fans made him and this team feel like winners in the following statement:
“I want to thank our fans. I thought they were great. You never know, things get a little tough, things are a little rough. Our guys showed up. We sold it out, I thought the crowd great. They were into it. So I really appreciate them (and) want to thank them for coming out on December 22nd (at) 7 o’clock. Obviously some people are disappointed with some of the results but I think it was great to see everybody. It gave our guys a jolt and we are very thankful and appreciative that folks would come out over Christmas break. Means a lot to us and means a lot to our team. Thank you very much to all of our fans and everybody have a great holiday.” –Coach Wade
Happy Holidays, Ramnation.
Ram Reminder: VCU is back in action on Sunday, December 27th at the Siegel Center as they take on Liberty. Tip-Off is set for 5 PM on CBS 6.1