New Year, Let Conference Play Commence!
VCU ended 2016 with an efficient performance versus Brown. On New Year’s Day A-10 play starts against La Salle; it’s an opportunity for a fresh start. The 7-7 Rams host the 8-4 Explorers a mere 13 hours into the New Year. Both teams faced one A-10 opponent during the “non-conference” part of its schedule. VCU lost to George Washington and La Salle won against Dayton.
Explorers Improve Against Lesser Opponents
La Salle has already exceeded their win total from last season (5). The Explorers finished 2-14 in conference play in 2016. It’s difficult to say how improved they will be this year until we get more than a few games into conference play. So far La Salle has feasted on a schedule full of cupcakes so their record may look better than VCU’s but that could be due to differences in their strength of schedule.
Last Meeting at La Salle
When these two teams met last year the Rams won at Tom Gola Arena, 84-76 in overtime. La Salle Guard Micahya Owens’ three-point shot with 19 seconds left sent the game into OT, where the Rams would outscore the Explorers 15-7. Owens led all scorers with 24 points, two Rams Adaeze Alaeze, who has since graduated and Isis Thorpe each added over 20. It was VCU’s highest point total of that season, they shot 50% from the field and made 21 free throws.
Well Rounded Leader
This season La Salle is unquestionably led by Amy Griffin, a 6’1 junior guard/forward. Griffin is scoring 21 points a game. Her 254 point season total is more than the next two leading scorers on her team combined. She has accounted for 33% of her team’s offense. VCU’s leading scorer, Keira Robinson, is responsible for only 18% of her squad’s offense. To this point, La Salle has proven to be reliant on Griffin in order to win games. She makes 45% from the field; she’s not much of a threat from distance with only 13 attempts and 3 makes during this campaign. The junior guard is much more than a pure scorer; she is the team’s second-leading rebounder averaging over 5 per game. She is capable of filling up a stat sheet; through only 12 games the junior has 30 assists, 22 steals, and 21 blocks. Beating the Explores is not as simple as stopping Griffin from scoring because she contributes in every way. She will be an issue that VCU must find a way to deal with.
Coach Beth O’Boyle has several options she can try to defend and attack Griffin with. Forwards Curteeona Brelove, Sandra Skinner and Bria Gibson could prove to be key players in suppressing Griffin’s output. The trio of VCU forwards is versatile and Coach O’Boyle can rotate them frequently or find one of the three who is able to perform the best while matched up with the La Salle’s star player. O’Boyle’s got plenty of options to deal with La Salle’s offensive attack. They don’t need to shut down Griffin just hold her to a reasonable point total. This contest will come down to VCU’s balanced offensive attack versus the Amy Griffin show.
Smoothing out the Rough Spots
VCU had a rough nonconference portion of their schedule. If they want to play postseason basketball they’ll need a very strong conference showing. They’re already 0-1, they evened their overall schedule on Thursday and hopefully they can even their conference record on Sunday against the Explorers.