It’s amazing to be a fan of the Ram on this day! The day after VCU rejoiced with an 84-82 win over #23 LSU and Coach Will Wade, I’m still recovering from the sights and sounds inside that special sanctuary of basketball haven known as the Siegel Center. While the Black & Gold are living in the now at 3-0, the future continues upward as VCU keeps getting better.
That Filthy (And Shady) Animal
Goodness Ram Nation brought EVERYTHING on Wednesday night. After checking in, I unplugged my headphones from “It Was All A Dream” and gandered at all the gold shirts surrounding the arena. There was this vibe during pre-game activities that couldn’t be shaken nor stirred. Coach Will Wade had arrived; this game is actually going to happen.
FBI Agents, Funny Money, and “Strong Ass Offer” chants aside, the Animal took over the Siegel Center before tip-off was even close. Hearing the heavy showers of boos upon Coach Wade as he walked out for the first time as the visiting head coach of LSU basketball. Fans screaming similarly to a warcry to the troops before battle. Then the battle officially tipped-off.
As Wes McElroy from 910 The Fan tweeted, this night felt like an NCAA Tournament game arrived at Richmond. From buzzer to buzzer, Ram fans brought the ruckus in one of the most deafening sounds of pure Black & Gold bliss I’ve ever heard inside that magical building. And the Rams were heard loud and clear by the coaches.
“Tremendous atmosphere as expected…The fans are passionate. The fans are tremendous. This is just another charged-up atmosphere.”
–Coach Will Wade, LSU Basketball
“That’s why you come to VCU. Everybody in the RVA goes crazy and wants to be part of Ram Nation. That’s why you wanna coach here…it was what college basketball should be about.”
–Coach Mike Rhoades, VCU Basketball
A Game That Exceeded Expectations
The actual game itself was a sight to behold amongst the sounds. VCU brought the HAVOC out of their fans and upon the Tigers evolving them into frightened kittens. LSU committed 26 turnovers on Wednesday night; the most that an LSU team has tallied in 12 years.
HAVOC honestly didn’t do anything special. Simply put, VCU played their style while limiting mistakes and second chances for LSU. 37 points for the Rams came off those visiting turnovers thanks to a trap game that had Coach Wade and LSU furious repeatedly. Coming up clutch near regulation with a defensive stop was the exclamation point courtesy of HAVOC.
Coach Rhoades shared that those early fumbles had his reserves excited to get out there and press once their number was called. Turnovers affect players; including the good ones. When a single turnover turns into 2 then 3, it becomes an annoyance that takes over the mind in fear of making yet another mistake.
Especially when strolling into hostile territory as the visiting team. Just ask Skylar Mays.
Work Hard, Reap Rewards
Another double-double and another unreal performance out there for #14. The thing about Santos-Silva is that when he’s on, he’s pretty difficult to slow down. Anyone when asked on the subject of who’s the hardest worker on VCU, everyone immediately points to the 6’7” junior out Taunton.
As the game got underway, Santos-Silva was forcing the ball while sticking to the game plan. He was collecting rebounds but it wasn’t until Santos-Silva let the game come to him that the points started to pile up. His post-game is on the rise with better shot selection, kick-out pass to the VCU backcourt, and second-chance bucket collected. Mind you that this is Game #3 and Santos-Silva is already catching buzz as a front-runner for the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.
Welcome Back Vince! How the Black & Gold have missed your presence. Williams is one of those basketball studs that hides on the stat sheet while leaving an impact in other areas during the game. After 2 offseason shoulder surgeries and being cleared from concussion protocol, Williams is quickly getting a grasp of his playstyle that has his team and fans excited once again.
“You might not seem him go crazy with triple-double or anything else. It’s just the little things. He’s always in the right place. He just looks like he always has a nose for the ball.”
–Marcus Evans, VCU Senior Guard
When that ball is bouncing, expect Williams to be lurking somewhere close. His live reactions are top tier and can keep control of the ball while sprinting towards the rim. Williams is not afraid of contact while defending nor finding his teammates with an assist to create an uncontested jumper. Happy that playmaker is rocking a #10 VCU jersey.
A Black & Gold Hybrid?
So Coach Wade was onto something when he gave Coach Rhoades praise about the system he has created at VCU.
“Coach Rhoades has done an unbelievable job creating a hybrid system where they press and get a lot of turnovers but they don’t give up any of the layups either.”
Defense is the standard here on Broad Street; VCU vs. LSU can be shown on replay as the reason why. The Rams have HAVOC cutting the court in half by pushing the opposition to the sides and trapping them for dear life. Even when the opponent breaks through, usually there is the VCU frontcourt defending the perimeter until the troops regroup. Limiting the fast break layup chances to bar and none.
Combining HAVOC with high tempo work-in-progress offense capable of firing at any given notice from all angles is key. On this night, Santos-Silva and Vince Williams delivered at the basket while Marcus Evans, De’Riante Jenkins, and Issac Vann hit from range.
What will drive opponents insane is not knowing which Ram or combination from the Herd possesses the hot hand on any given night. As VCU continues working on limiting turnovers and improved shot selection, this hybrid has a massive potential to be highly productive amongst A-10 conference playtime.
Be In The NOW
Right now VCU sits unbeaten at 3-0 after getting Coach Rhoades’ first career win over a ranked opponent. Siegel Center remains a warlike fortress improving to a 5-2 record against ranked opponents. Did I mention that Coach Wade lost to his former team as well? Pretty sure of that...
Living in the now is something that Coach Rhoades preaches and practices daily. He constantly reminds his players to not let the moment run their performance. Live the moment and help your fellow teammates win the game.
“Be where your feet are. Don’t celebrate, next play. Be in the Now. Be alert. What can I do to help my teammates?”
Now feels pretty good after watching VCU get the job done at home against #23 LSU. Narratives aside, Marcus Evans just wanted to give the VCU fans a win that they deserved,
“We wanted to win it for the fans of VCU. I think us personally the guys on the team, I don’t think it was something that we really took it to heart…More than anything it was our way of kind of giving back to the fans.”
Thank You Evans. Thank You VCU. Now the Rams are back to the work on a couple of hybrid upgrades while we’re still recovering from a special night inside our home away from home. Rest Up and see you for a Sunday Basketball Brunch.
One More Tweet(s)
Next up for VCU Men’s Basketball is the Emerald Coast Classic. VCU hosts Jacksonville State in a campus game on Sunday, November 17th at the Siegel Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 Noon and telecasted on MASN.