The reflection off the beautiful new LED banner on the side line glared bright
off the court as a new younger Rams team won the tip and the game, 71-56, in their season opener exhibition against their down the road rivals, the Virginia Union Panthers.
Both teams looked to be shaking off some rust as it took the Rams the
first six minutes before getting a convincing basket that resulted in
a Darius Theus and 1 as both packed student sections went nuts.
If there was any question as to who would replace NBA bound Larry
Sanders, there were two answers.Â Â Â With a towering presence in the
middle, DJ Haley, put in 4 pts, 5 rebounds and drew a charge with an
acting performance straight from Hollywood.Â The other was juco
transfer, Toby Veal.
Veal played aggressive around the rim with 7 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks.
With senior point guard, Joey Rodriguez sidelined with an injury, Ram
fans got a good look at sophomore guard, Theus.Â With help from VCUâ€™s
full court pressure Theus was able to capitalize off of three Panther
turnovers before the end of the first half and ended with 8 points and
4 steals on the night.
Another bright spot for VCUâ€™s guard play is freshman, Rob Brandenberg.
Â With his John Wall like quickness, the Ohio native, had 10 points and
3 steals in just 14 minutes.
The Rams found some rhythm to close out the half with a 41-19 lead but
had trouble maintaining that lead.
The Panthers came out on a 16-4 point run forcing two Ramsâ€™ turnovers
to start off the second half.Â The Rams looked a bit flustered in the
second half letting their lead down to ten at one point.Â â€œThe kids
fought back and played hard at times and thatâ€™s what you want out of
your players.â€ Said VUU Coach Willard Coker.
Coach Smart liked a lot of what he saw tonight from his Rams
defensively in the first half but was candid about their effort level
in the second half.Â â€œRegardless of what the half time score is you
got to come out of the locker room with the right intensity level.â€
Seniors Jamie Skeen and Brandon Rozzell both led the team with
Brandenberg with 10 points each.