My apologies for the brevity of this game review, and potential poor English. It's late, I'm happy, and there's a game tomorrow. Besides, there's a few Stellas calling my name.
How ya' feeling havoc right about now? Let's not mince words: VCU controlled 36 minutes of action in its 78-65 win over Memphis. VCU never trailed in the contest. The Rams started fast, building a double-digit lead behind precise offense and a havocy defense. Memphis star guard Joe Jackson finished with six points and seven turnovers before fouling out. Sharpshooter Antonio Barton was 1-10 from the field, and I think he had one open shot.
I noted that VCU needed 8-20 from three out of players not named Troy Daniels tonight. We got 9-14 from those guys. Yeah, that's a good number.
You want to know how good the Jeremy Ballard hire was for VCU? Memphis was his scout, and the last time VCU had this kind of pure offensive execution and open shots against a high level opponent was the Purdue game in the 2011 NCAA tournament. Think about the number of open shots VCU took in the first half. It was unreal. The two plays I kept seeing–the counter off the flex screen produced three Rob Brandenberg bombs, and a version of the one-four flat where the Rams dragged a shooter behind the dribble drive. Hello, Troy Daniels.
Credit Ballard for an outstanding game plan.
What's more, when Memphis guard Joe Jackson re-entered the game with four fouls, VCU immediately tried to post up Darius Theus and later isolated Treveon Graham on Jackson. The Freight Train's dirve fouled Jackson out.
Where Things Changed
I have two. The first came after Memphis scored the first seven points of the second half. VCU beat back that thrust and increased the lead back to double-digits. Second, Memphis cut the lead to two, as close as it had been since 11-9, and Treveon Graham buried the three and was fouled. The important part of that shot was that VCU has faced four straight sloppy possessions and appeared to be on the ropes.
Oh, and Brandenberg's NBA three at the end of the shot clock with about three minutes to go wasn't a game-changer. That was a back-breaker.
What It Means
Memphis is a doggone good basketball team. The Tigers are going to win far more than 20 games and almost certainly a C-USA title. When we start looking at resumes in late February, this game will get a gold star. Tonight was a game that has more meaning come 2013. It also means VCU gets Duke, and you know what that means.
Statistic That Jumps Out At Me
Brandenberg's 5-5 performance from three is ridiculous, but Treveon Graham's 26 poins on 12 shots is insanely efficient. Look, we can over-analyze all we want, but it comes down to putting the ball in the basket. "That's the guy we thought he could be when we recruited him," said Shaka Smart.
Honorable mention goes to Juvonte Reddic's two charges taken, as well as Briante Weber's six rebounds.
(Side note: the classic box out technique from this team has been outstanding in the early part of the season.)
The Curmudgeon's View
It's difficult to be all cranky tonight, but the play of DJ Haley was a little concerning. We love the big guy, but he was pushed around far too much on defense, and was a little outside himself on offense.
In a tight game, I'm not sure Haley careening down the lane is option number one, and Haley bumbled too many rebound opportunities. We're gonig to chalk that up to a bad night. The reason for the concern–Juvonte Reddic needs some beef aid on the block. That needs to come from Haley. No worries if DJ just had a bad game, but he's going to have to help Reddic in the long term.
Stars of the Game
***Treveon Graham. The Freight Train did everything tonight. You know the points, but Graham hit timely shots, grabbed five rebounds, and had three steals. Graham was active and engaged and oh-by-the-way hit 4-6 from three.
**Rob Brandenberg. Come on, you have to ask? Double nickels on his three-point line? He had made five threes in teh past seven games, dating back to last year. Confidence.
*Juvonte Reddic. He didn't have the offensive game we've seen so far this year (eight points on 4-8 shooting), but Reddic was a difference-maker everywhere else–those places Shaka Smart wanted to see him get better when Reddic was plopping 22 points on the scorebard. Tarik Black only took five shots, and Shaq Goodwin only took four shots. Black's 2-4 FT performance was it. The duo combined for six rebounds. As mentioned Reddic was a bit of a man on an island tonight, but he was a man.