For VCU fans there is plenty to be thankful for. 69 consecutive sellouts at the Siegel Center, a good home win over American on Wednesday night, HAVOC running amok and some good ol’ payback against the Monarchs.
HAVOC was challenged with playing college basketball’s slowest offensive tempo and were beyond successful. 22 turnovers by American and the Rams scored 22 off of those while also grabbing 16 steals and four blocks. VCU outrebounded the Eagles 42-29 including an impressive 18 offensive boards leading to the Rams putting up 21 second chance points.
Offensively VCU was productive yet they probably wished they could have had a do-over. The Rams were abysmal shooting 39% from the field and just kept shooting in hopes that something would fall their way. Fortunately Justin Tillman was able to get things rolling for the Rams and collected his second double-double with a career-high 14 rebounds and 10 points. Melvin Johnson led the way from downtown as he had a team high 13 points.
The mad scientist known as Head Coach Will Wade is making a breakthrough with his creations. Seeing Johnson as a PG scared most yet raised tremendous curiosity; now attention is increasing as it appears that the gamble is paying off. Alongside a more focused and productive JeQuan Lewis, Wade can switch things around on the fly with either guard running the point and the other at shooting guard.
Flip-flopping between Michael Gilmore and Tillman getting the starting nod will vary with what Wade’s game-plan is on the night. Against American, Wade’s experiment was a success and is aware that he has to come up with something more robust versus the Monarchs on Saturday.
“Moving on to Old Dominion on Saturday which will obviously be a very tough game. A stiff challenge for us but we will be ready to roll. We need to focus on playing really well [and] doing what we need to do in preparations these next couple of days to play a good team. Their backcourt will be one of the best backcourts we play all year.” –Coach Wade
Ah Old Dominion. Two words that make VCU fans cringe with bitter hatred towards their rivals from Norfolk. Especially with what took place at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in last year’s chapter of this emotional cross-town rivalry. 73-67. Old Dominion got their first win over a nationally ranked team since 2009 as they defeated #14 VCU off of an unreal offensive performance by Aaron Bacote who scored a career high 31 points.
Now a senior, Bacote looks to have a great sendoff towards graduation with another big performance against the Rams. Along with teammate Trey Freeman, this duo leads the Monarchs into enemy territory in search of turnaround victory after losing 2 straight games. What better way to accomplish that than possibly beating your greatest rival in 2 consecutive seasons.
The last time Old Dominion two-upped VCU was in 2011 with a win at the Siegel Center then at Richmond Coliseum as they were crowned the 2011 CAA Men’s Basketball Champions. Since the creations of the Stu and the Ted, the Monarchs have never gotten the sweep of winning at both venues in the same season. VCU has accomplished the sweep 4 times.
On Saturday afternoon, VCU will be looking for their fourth win of the season. As an extra bonus, it’s against the Monarchs. What can you expect from the newest chapter in this rivalry? Anarchy. Emotions. HAVOC aplenty.
Coach Wade did not misquote when talking about defending ODU’s backcourt. The Monarchs may have lost some offensive firepower however they are still more than capable of getting buckets in bunches. Not as deadly from three point range this season although the Monarchs have some physical rebounders who don’t mind going to the War with the Rams inside the paint for 2nd chance points.
VCU has a full rebounding squad ready for war down in the trenches. Korey Billbury and Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed have stepped up their rebounding arsenal in consecutive games collecting everything in arms reach. Alongside Mo Alie-Cox and an aggressive Tillman, the Rams clearly have depth and aggression in their frontcourt.
Ruthless aggression could come to bite the Rams on Saturday. At times when VCU played aggressively versus American, the ball came loose or a play went up in smoke leading to Coach Wade going irate from the sidelines. Aggression is a good thing in college basketball alongside control and good decision making. Too much of a good thing can sometimes derail a game not for the better.
So has VCU gotten better? Yes.
Have they reached their peak? Far From It.
Can they beat Old Dominion?
That’s the million dollar question as tip-off draws near. VCU has gotten better and better in some form after each game thus far. On the flip side, the Rams still have a few offensive struggles to tweak in addition to amping up their zone defense. Coach Wade is satisfied with winning but believes that his squad’s performance can improve. Still working towards that A so to speak as Wade would give his team a B- after their latest basketball exam.
In front of another rambunctious crowd, VCU must bring their A game. The Animal transforms into a true beast of an environment for this game when it’s in town. The players, VCU coaching staff and Coach Wade himself knows how much Saturday’s game means to the Black & Gold faithful. A moral victory is not acceptable on Saturday; it’s a win or bust.
Whether you rock with the Silver & Blue or bleed Black & Gold, you do not want to lose this game. Thanks to social media and #oduHateWeek, all the jeers, MeMes and trash talk have been shared between opposing fan bases in anticipation of the fireworks on display in the 91st meeting of VCU vs. Old Dominion.
Whatever is on display on the court, we all will be watching every second of it. By the time the final buzzer sounds throughout the Stu, the 92nd chapter of the story of VCU vs. Old Dominion will be in the history books.
Who claims victory? We will find out Saturday.
Ram Reminder: VCU vs. Old Dominion. The War down I-64 is at Siegel Center on Saturday, November 28th. Tip-Off set for 4 PM on the Comcast Sports Network.