It was very nice to be back in the friendly confines with the 21st straight sellout.
Also, Shaka Smart broke the world's record for quietest technical foul earned in a college basketball game. It was hilariously subdued. Someone call Guinness.
This game was never in doubt as the Rams jumped out quickly, 8-2, forcing turnovers on four straight Stetson possessions. The lead creeped to 20-10, then 41-22 at the half. After Stetson opened the second half with a basket, VCU went on a 14-3 spree to lead by 28 points. Save a grotesque 13-0 lull, the Rams coasted home.
VCU established Juvonte Reddic on the block early–Stetson tried four different defenses to contain him–and ramped up the defense to create separation. Not much of a story here.
(Side note: Adam Pegg played behind Reddic; then fronted Reddic: then Stetson brought a guard low to double team Reddic; finally they went to a zone. Nothing could contain the big man last night.)
This is exactly how you wanted to see this team respond to its Atlantis trip. They played the same mental game inside the locker room as every fan played since Saturday night–disappointed and frustrated by a 1-2 record and missed opportunities, but encouraged by the competitiveness and progress agaisnt top flight competition.
It would've been easy to come out flat against an overmatched Stetson team, but VCU was sharp from the beginning. We also saw how the havoc defense is intertwined with the shooting. The Rams suffered again from long range, hitting just five of 22 threes.
However the team forced 21 turnovers, which led to easy transition baskets. Take that, plus Reddic's inside domination, and you get a 31-47 night on two-point shots (66%). Knocking down threes obviously makes VCU a dominant offensive team, but the defense provides the offense options to score.
Where Things Changed
On VCUs fourth possession, Darius Theus bounced a pass into Reddic on the right block, who had Pegg on his hip. The other four VCU players moved as far left on the court as possible, isolating Reddic and Pegg. Juvonte used his backside, jabbed left, and hit his third baby jump hook.
After that, it was obvious the night would belong to VCU. It was a matter of time.
What It Means
I'm obviously a Sunshine and Stellas for Everyone guy with this team, but to me, while it's nice to have fun and it's comforting to see the team respond in the manner in which it responded, this was Stetson. I don't mean that disrespectfully, but VCU at home should beat a middle-tier Atlantic Sun team.
Juvonte Reddic should dominate the post. Jarred Guest should play with a confidence that allows a double-double. So what does it mean? A check box on the to do list, but don't start feeling good about yourselves.
Statistic That Jumps Out At Me
32. That's Rob Brandenberg's minutes, which climbed for the fourth straight game. I commented on the air that Brandenberg had a different aura about him–he looked angry and carried a scowl on his face. He played with a similar distemper and indignation.
Brandenberg's stat line reflects the acrimony: 7-13 shooting (2-6 from threes), 17 points and four steals.
The Curmudgeon's View
It's tough to be all curmudgeony this morning. That's exactly how this team needed to play. However the three-point shooting performance cannot be written off. It has become a three-game skid that is a combined 17-66 (25.8%) from beyond the arc. Troy Daniels seems a little sluggish the past two games in particular, and Buzz can lift everyone's bombardier nature.
VCU is going to need those shots this weekend–Belmont is a very physical, highly-disciplined defensive team. That is a challenge.
Stars of the Game
***Juvonte Reddic: The big fella was in call-your-stat-line mode last night. However two other things stood out to me–Reddic was frequently the first big man to get to loose balls (energy plays), and he is beginning to perfect that baby jump hook through positioning (credit Will Wade). What's more, Adam Pegg came into the game averaging 18.3ppg and 6.0rpg, but fouled out last night with one point and three rebounds.
**Jarred Guest: Shaka Smart is (rightfully) going to go all basketball coach on us and play down Guest's numbers. However this team very much needs production out of the 4/5 spot that complements Reddic. A 17/10 night is exactly that, and keep in mind Guest was deflecting passes at the front of the press as well.
*Briante Weber: Four assists, zero turnovers, five rebounds (three offensive), and 3-3 from the foul line. Plus, only one bad reach-in foul. At the beginning of the season Shaka Smart told me Weber would only be a role player until he figured out he has to do more on the court than run around and make steals. Weber is starting to figure that out.