It’s always a good feeling when you beat Old Dominion.
Saturday afternoon at the Siegel Center was a great day for the VCU faithful as the Rams defeated the Monarchs 76-67. For the first time this season, VCU played a total team game of basketball. The game did not start off pretty for the Black & Gold but the final result was just what the Rams needed.
Old Dominion gave VCU a fight worthy of a rivalry game. Led by the duo of Aaron Bacote and Trey Freeman, the Monarchs went 50% from the field and 64% from downtown in the 1st half. Things went south in the second 20 minutes as VCU grounded ODU defensively leading to shooting only 37% from the field and beyond the arc for the Monarchs. Bacote and Freeman tallied 38 of ODU’s 67 points.
VCU’s scoring tactic was simple: Get the ball inside the paint. Constant feeding of the ball down low to Mo Alie-Cox and Ahmad Hamdy Mohamed paid off with buckets, rebounds and other scoring opportunities from outside as ODU constantly double teamed anyone that was near the paint wearing a white jersey. The Rams were able to score in bunches from nearly everywhere while the struggle continued offensively for Old Dominion as the nail in the coffin dug deeper and deeper with every miss.
“Thought we did a really good job just pounding the ball into the post players and being able to play out of that…thought Mo and Hamdy were really good. Thought JeQuan Lewis was phenomenal. Mel(vin) did his thing. Burgess hit the big three for us. Overall it was a nice job.” -Coach Will Wade
JeQuan Lewis looks to have finally figured his game out. Leading VCU in points for the first time this season with 16 points, Lewis appeared to have listened to what Coach Wade was instructing from his junior guard. There were a couple times when Lewis was forcing passes into bad spots yet he kept composed. He also cut inside to the basket more for layups and made two from downtown. This was the kind of game Lewis needed for a confidence booster.
Ram fans are starting to gain more confidence in Ahmad Hamdy Mohamed. Another good game off the bench for the junior transfer as Hamdy looks to have adjusted to Division I basketball quite smoothly. Leading VCU in rebounds on the night with six, Hamdy has become a presence down low. The combination of Mo and Hamdy could become a dangerous VCU frontcourt as their chemistry continues to build along with their rebounding strength.
One strength the Black & Gold had on Saturday: The Siegel Center. 7,637 fans sold out the Animal for the 70th consecutive time and you can hear all of them from the opening tip to the final buzzer. From cheers to chants and even some boos along with some stomping, it was an incredible sight to see and hear from inside the Stu. Even opposing head coach Jeff Jones gave his props on the crowd noise at the Animal.
“I think it’s a myth to think that a crowd can affect a team in a negative way. It’s a great crowd, it’s a great atmosphere.” -Coach Jeff Jones
So how big was this win for VCU? The Rams avenged last season’s meltdown at the Ted with a convincing performance at the Stu to the delight of all. Emotionally this win feels amazing yet on paper VCU was suppose to win this game. The majority of experts picked the Black & Gold between +5 and +9 points so the chances of an upset were pretty slim on Saturday. This might not be a win worthy of post-season tournament resume booster although it’s not a loss that could have dampened VCU’s chances to dance come March.
There is still plenty of season for the Rams until March Madness. VCU is still a team in the making still buffering a few flaws. Quiet games from Michael Gilmore and Justin Tillman show no need to hit the panic button; nights like those happen on occasion for players. Doug Brooks channeling his inner Dougie B. from downtown is great to see consistently. Coming back home after a rough business trip in New York seemed to have done the trick for the Black & Gold regaining confidence and improving team chemistry.
Business was taken care of at Siegel for VCU. Now the Rams prepare for three games on the road against Middle Tennessee State, Florida State and Georgia Tech. There are some matchups in each contest that will test the Rams in some fashion. VCU are in good form and on the incline as the season rolls along.
Saturday’s win over Old Dominion was great, now to see if VCU can take that winning formula on the road and come back to Siegel in December with some road wins.
Ram Reminder: VCU are on the road taking on Middle Tennessee State. Tip-off set for 8 PM on Wednesday, December 2nd.