With what was on display in the McCamish Pavilion on Tuesday night, fans of the VCU Rams may be feeling hopeless with another opportunity just out of arm’s reach passing them by. Georgia Tech was able to put up 50 points in the 2nd half to win 77-64 and hand VCU their second consecutive loss to the ACC. Now sitting at 5-4 on the year, many are starting to think that this season is over before VCU even starts Atlantic 10 conference play.
Pump The Brakes.
Emotions are running high in Ram Nation and for good reason. 4 contests against top competition in #5 Duke, Wisconsin, FSU and Georgia Tech. 4 defeats. Multiple plays in each game that could have gone the way of the Black & Gold if they ran the game back but that’s not how college basketball goes. Looking at the Georgia Tech game, the Rams had smothered the Yellow Jackets close to submission. Yet Georgia Tech was able to get a few stingers in VCU’s side offensively and pull away with the victory. For the fourth time, we were left speechless as another opportunity for VCU to make a statement got away.
There were multiple factors into Tuesday’s defeat. The mindboggling case of JeQuan Lewis causing a team high 6 turnovers to Doug Brooks shooting himself and VCU in the foot with 2 of 15 shooting. Speaking of shooting, the rim was not VCU’s friend as the Rams shot 32.4% from the field and 22.2% from the arc. Players not communicating well on defense as Georgia Tech hammered HAVOC with some earth shattering dunking power on fast breaks and in wide open lanes. Another tale of two halves of VCU Basketball with the 1st showing belief while the 2nd showed belief the door.
Justin Tillman was able to shine in VCU’s darkest hour. Alongside Melvin Johnson’s 17 points on the night, Tillman was able to handle the offensive workload leading the Rams with 18 and four rebounds. The Fro looked to have returned to his roots with his precise mid-range jumper and causing a ruckus inside the paint. Even in defeat, this was the game Tillman needed for a confidence booster.
VCU showed confidence in another area: Free Throws. A perfect 12 for 12 at the charity strike on the night. This hasn’t happened for VCU in nearly three years; practice indeed makes perfect from the line.
Practice should be intense for the Rams as they get ready for #23 Cincinnati at Siegel Center. With the struggling JeQuan Lewis trying to do too much at point guard, VCU Head Coach Will Wade may have to make a decision that will impact the season. Lewis has committed 13 turnovers in his last two games; his assists have gone down and his foul trouble has gone up. So do you sit JeQuan Lewis? As frustrating as those turnovers were last night, there really is no permanent replacement for Lewis right now. Melvin is still learning how to run point, Johnathan Williams is not 100% so the pressure is still on Lewis to turn his game around against the Bearcats. The ball is still in the hands of JeQuan but he knows that he’s on borrowed time before Coach Wade may have to put the ball in someone else’s hands moving forward.
In order for the Rams to move forward, they first must realize where they are as a team. Wins and losses aside, this is a good VCU team. A mixture of talent on both sides of the basketball that may not be as explosive as previous VCU teams from the past but a talented squad nonetheless. Going up against teams were VCU was supposed to win, the Rams did just that. Whether by a margin or the skin of the Rams’ teeth, they got the job done with the win. Different story in the underdog role early on this season for VCU with four losses out of four against competition they may see again in March if things go right. On VCU’s tournament resume there is not that one big statement win for the Rams which leads to the Ram’s opportunity to snag one this upcoming Saturday against #23 Cincinnati.
Anything is possible when it comes to the underdog; especially when your dog house is the Siegel Center. Cincinnati is a great team worthy of that ranking that will give VCU a fight this coming Saturday. The Bearcats are seeking revenge from last season’s 68-47 defeat at Fifth Third Arena. Melvin Johnson led VCU with 18 points on that December afternoon in Cincy.
Two months into the 2015-16 season and VCU is still a work in progress here in December. Team chemistry is still not fully operational and issues with foul trouble, poor shot selection and turnovers is still being attended to. Doug Brooks and JeQuan Lewis may be having difficulty in this new basketball system while other players such as Melvin Johnson, Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed and Justin Tillman are stepping up their game. Rebounding is now a strength, HAVOC is still causing plenty of mayhem for the opposition and these guys are not gonna quit even with the game completely out of reach.
Have ye little faith.
That losing feeling is not a good one to have crawling inside your stomach. It will soon pass. Winning does heal all wounds in basketball and a win vs. #23 Cincinnati is just what the doctor ordered for VCU. Siegel Center will become the Animal obviously but will that be enough to get VCU over this ill feeling?
Some of the VCU faithful believe that the season is over already while others still hold on to the faith that every little thing is gonna be alright. The real question is does VCU believe in themselves that they can overcome this adversity and turn it into victories?
First step towards that answer will be shown on Saturday.
Ram Reminder: VCU starts their 5 game homestand at the Siegel Center with #23 Cincinnati. Tip-Off set for Saturday, December 19th at 4 PM on CBSSN.