That was a Takin' Care of Business win for VCU last night. (Thx to VCURN member Space Ghost for the correction of my hazy memory…)
It's going to be nice to take a few days to exhale after the breakneck two weeks. Besides, we all need to rev the engine to 7000 RPM as we renew pleasantries with that bunch from Norfolk…
taut affair–five ties and four lead changes in the game's first eight
minutes–turned into a havoc DVD on the back of a 26-3 run. A 15-13
Belmont lead became a 39-18 VCU advantage before a halfcourt heave at
the halftime buzzer went down for the Bruins. VCU forced 15 turnovers in
the last 10 minutes of the first half. The Rams, again, started the
second half slowly. However every time Belmont punched in the second
half, VCU counterpunched, and the Rams walked back to their apartments
that was in full force with VCU last night. The Rams were teetering,
having given back almost all of a 21-point first half lead. The score
was 50-44 with about 13 minutes to play when VCU isolated Juvonte Reddic
on the block. Reddic was fouled and hit both free throws. Briante Weber
picked up a loose ball on the inbounds pass and dunked it. In four
seconds the lead was again 10.
next came with a little less that five minutes to play. Belmont closed
to 66-61, but Rob Brandenberg hit a tough shot in the lane and followed
that with a swish from three to restore a comfortable margin. Finally,
Treveon Graham buried a three at the shot clock buzzer with a minute to
play to restore a 12-point lead and serve as the dagger.
Where Things Changed
your paintbrush ready for havoc by numbers. The obvious game-change was
the giant first half run that established a 21-point lead. It was fun,
for sure, but let's get all geeky together and look at the numbers.
Here's Belmont's possessions during that run: Turnover, missed FG, TO,
Miss FG, TO, TO, Miss FG, TO, TO, three-point play, TO, TO, TO, miss FG,
TO, TO, TO, two missed FTs, miss FG, TO, TO, TO.
is 22 possessions that produced 15 turnovers, five missed shots, an 0-2
from the line, and a conventional three-point play. That's three points
in 22 possessions. Or, 0.136 points per possession. Ridiculous.
What It Means
don't think it's possible to overestimate the importance of Briante
Weber's ability to fill in for Darius Theus. There were a plethora of
unknowns and Weber largely answered those questions. You may look at
seven points, three, assists, and two turnovers and come away with a
decidedly "meh" feeling. However Weber's ability to get VCU into its
sets, communicate with his teammates, and play the role of a leader was
outstanding. And keep in mind, Belmont's senior backcourt, and Rick Byrd's ability to coach hard, disciplined defense, presented a real
than one player mentioned "the next man down" the list for stepping up
into roles, and that is a key takeaway. Besides Weber, Brandenberg
continued his transformation into a rattlesnake and Melvin Johnson logged
quality, aggressive minutes. It's comforting when VCU can depend on Reddic and Graham–both players were 7-11 FG and 3-4 FT on the night–because everyone else can settle into a specific role.
Statistic(s) That Jumps Out At Me
VCU committed just nine team fouls on the evening while forcing 24
turnovers. The old "defend without fouling" mantra came to roost. This
is also a sign of increasing discipline, an aspect Shaka Smart continues
to drill into the team. We typically think of discipline as being in
the right spots on the floor and not gambling for steals, but the
ability to play aggressively and effectively, without stupid fouls, is
That's the number of different VCU players who made a steal last night.
I don't know how that compares to a typical college basketball game,
but that number sure feels like a big one.
The Curmudgeon's View
the Duke game, Troy Daniels has been nearly non-existent, and the Rams
very much need his game-changing shooting. Last night was a listless 24 minutes
and 1-6 performance. Daniels is hitting 9-31 (29%) since the Duke game,
and the team is 21-85 (24.7%) in the same time span.
What is more
concerning about Daniels is that his rebounds–especially on the
offensive end–have winnowed away, and he hasn't registered an assist
since the Memphis game. Daniels rediscovering his immense shooting ability, and the emotion/confidence that goes along with that, is a critical part of the VCU offense. Nothing like a roadie in Norfolk to get you back on track…
Stars of the Game
***Briante Weber. I don't mean to weenie out, but re-read the What It Means section.
Graham. 19 points, 8 rebounds (SIX offensive!), four assists, and three
steals. I bet he dove three times onto the floor and tapped a loose
ball to a teammate to give VCU an extra possession. Graham is a quiet,
understated kid. His basketball game is nothing of the sort.
Brandenberg. Smart ran two sets for Brandenberg late, and the kid
delivered. We mentioned last week the scowl that Brandenberg carries this year. The confidence to back that up continues to grow. Oh, and 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals is WAY more than a pedestrian stat line.
Johnson still has quite a ways to go on the defensive end–Belmont took
advantage of him repeatedly in the second half–but my gosh that kid is
something to watch on offense. He's very aggressive on the drive and
has a very nice little pullup floater. I don't want anybody to get
overly excited, but that pump fake drive into the lane for a smooth six-footer reminds me very much of Dom Jones.
almost hilarious that Johnson, billed as a super three-point shooter,
is 2-15 from three on the year. Some have been wide open bricks. But shots will come–all I know is he is a fun player to watch, and he's just eight games into his VCU career.
He also never met a shot he didn't like: Johnson has taken 38 shots in
83 minutes, by far the most on the team. In comparison: Weber has taken
42 shots in 173 minutes.
Finally, because the VCU Ramnation is awesome, here's a shot chart from last night's game, courtesy VCU fan Jeff Horne. This is great stuff, and we all benefit from his work. Personally, I love all the green (made shots) inside the paint.