VCU was running on all cylinders in the 2K Classic vs. Radford. Offense, defense, everything the Black & Gold set out to accomplish was a success and then some Monday night at Siegel Center.
HAVOC successfully rattled Radford early and often. 20 turnovers for the Highlanders on the night along with 13 steals for the Rams that satisfied the No Love Nachos craving of hungry VCU fans at Baja Bean post-game. More emphasis on the press and zone defense was on Coach Will Wade’s clipboard vs. RU and VCU looked great causing HAVOC on the floor and in the stands.
Melvin Johnson brought out the Animal at Siegel with a barrage of threes. The senior guard finished the night with 24 points and six three pointers off of 60% shooting from downtown. Johnson was on fire especially from the corner as he kept making bucket after bucket. NBA Jam references aside, Johnson also came up with four steals and dished two assists.
Leading VCU in assists once again was JeQuan Lewis. Not only was he passing, Lewis also made buckets; 13 points to be exact. This was the scoring performance that fans were anticipating from the junior out of Tennessee as Lewis turned into more of a passing guard early in the season. Lewis is still capable of a good scoring night however he wants to get his teammates involved early and often.
“Right now it’s the beginning of the season. I just want to show myself that I can get close to 10 assists a game and get my teammates going. Cause if they’re going, we’re going.” –JeQuan Lewis
Lewis got sophomore Michael Gilmore going from off the bench. All of that hard work in practice is paying off for Gilmore as he had 12 points and did not miss a single shot. Everything was hitting for Gilmore as he even gave VCU a 7-0 scoring run by himself!
Coach Wade made a switch in his lineup with starting Jordan Burgess over Korey Billbury. Burgess brought in the rebounds while Billbury grabbed the buckets with 15 coming from the bench. Switching between Billbury and Burgess may be something to keep an eye on during this season in the starting lineup for VCU. Both players play a physical game with Billbury doing the driving into the paint while Burgess crashes it to contest the boards.
The board crashing duo of Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tillman had a quiet night. Alie-Cox had eight rebounds along with seven points while Tillman collected four boards and only two points from the free throw line. After his double-double performance vs. PVAMU, Tillman wasn’t able to get it going as he fouled out of the contest. A cause for concern? Not really. Alie-Cox and Tillman knows that they are the target for the opposition to keep them under pressure and stop them however necessary on 2nd chances in the paint.
A solid B was given to VCU by Coach Wade on their performance vs. Radford. Can the Black & Gold receive an A+ on their next exam versus the Duke Blue Devils? It’s a tall order but anything is possible in college basketball. Well…except for a #16 seed upsetting the #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Oh the NCAA tournament. VCU fans will never forget when the Rams #BeatDUKE with an Eric Maynor dagger to eliminate the Blue Devils in Buffalo in 2007. Duke avenged their post-season nightmare in 2012 with a 67-58 win over VCU in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. Now in 2015, VCU and Duke meet up once again in the 2K Classic Friday night at the famous Madison Square Garden.
“We gotta be twice as good as we were tonight on Friday to give ourselves a chance. I think we will have our guys attention playing Duke. If we don’t prepare right, we’re going to get embarrassed on Friday night. They’re good. We gotta be ready to rumble.” –Coach Will Wade
There’s going to be Rumble in the Garden. VCU are hopeful they have enough haymakers to knock out Duke. The Blue Devils are the heavy favorites as the reigning NCAA champions and have picked up right after hoisting their 5th NCAA championship. Plenty of homework to study on Duke before tip-off for the Rams and they are going to need proofread. Maybe twice.
For Duke they have a BIG matchup with #2 Kentucky just three days prior to Friday night. All eyes will be on the Champions Classic as they see two college basketball heavyweights go at it in Chicago. Coach K clearly wants to win in the United Center but he’s also must put stamina into play. Both #2 Kentucky and VCU are high tempo caliber teams and the worst thing you can do is come at HAVOC with only half in the tank.
As this new edition of college hoops gets rolling, a couple of well unexpected upsets have occurred. Can VCU add another to the growing list of upsets with one over #5 Duke? The fan of the Ram (yes I am!) in me says a CLOSE upset is on the horizon. The more realistic side believes that the Battle 4 Atlantis game may have an encore in Madison Square Garden in favor of Duke. VCU conquering Radford opened many eyes and having some believing that the Rams could #BeatDukeAgain.
It may be a long shot but VCU could hit one from deep over #5 Duke. Coach Wade is gonna do everything he can to prepare his guys for Friday but when that buzzer sounds the focus will be on the players out in the center of the court. All those hours of practice and re-watching film hundreds of times leads up to this.
Friday Night awaits. Let’s get Ready 2 Rumble!
Ram Reminder: VCU vs. #5 Duke in the 2K Classic. Friday, November 20th at 7 PM on ESPN 2.