VCU 83, Old Dominion 70…Or, The Defense Rested, But Probably Never Again…
I don't want to be anywhere near
Franklin Street Gym on Monday. Neither do you.
Postgame, Shaka Smart was
as displeased as I've seen him, win or loss. The words were pointed–Smart
went right down the list of players who had poor nights defensively, and after the fifth name chose to say "everybody." He also noted the Rams struggled defending the interior and exterior. (There
is no other place to defend.) I can tell you this: his body language
was exponentially more angry than this words.
So do yourself a favor and avoid the Franklin Street Gym area. I have a sneaky feeling several rooms will need repainting.
used a 15-2 early first half run to jet to a 20-10 lead, and slowly but
unsteadily built the lead from there. It would reach 20 points on three
occasions but never higher, and it would also never fall below 12
points in the second half. All in all, the action on the floor mimicked
the 40-watt Ted Constant Center crowd. Think about that: for 32 minutes
the game teetered between a 12 and 20 point lead.
VCU has now won three
straight at The Ted.
the smack talk and parade routes for another time. This is not the same
Old Dominion team we're used to seeing. Oh they got after it to the
final buzzer, grabbed 21 offensive rebounds, and they are a similar
bricklaying squad from three and the foul line. However defensively they
aren't even close to what we're used to facing. Blaine Taylor was
adamant to stay in a zone that was carved up by Treveon Graham, passed
through by Briante Weber, or shot over by Troy Daniels. I've never seen
so many open shots, and it wasn't just last night. Richmond did this to
ODU as well.
They are now 1-8 for a reason, and that reason is their defensive intensity and awareness–which, by the way, is what caused Shaka Smart such great annoyance and displeasure. Still, anything that gets Buzz confident in his shot is good by me.
Where Things Changed
was a tepid affair after VCU jumped out to the quick double-digit lead.
Two second half moments stand out to me as important. On VCUs third
possession of the second half, less than two minutes into the half, Troy
Daniels found himself wide open on the left wing. Wide open. Wide.
Open. Wide open after making six first half three pointers. Daniels
with about eight minutes to play and VCU–and I cannot believe I'm
about to write these next few words–hanging on to a 12-point lead for
dear life, ODU grabbed a rebound and sprinted into the offensive end.
Dimitri Batten let fly with a three-pointer that would've brought the
game to a brain-squeezing, squirmy-butt-in-seat nine points. Fortunately
for the Rams, Batten missed and Rob Brandenberg took over to restore
order. It would be ODUs last charge.
What It Means
coach loves to teach lessons in victory. Shaka Smart loves teaching mental
lessons in victory. This qualifies as both and gives Smart the ideal
DVR to run back: nobody can stop you from playing hard, there is no
defense for that.
This was different than the lack of defensive
discipline we saw in spots earlier this season. This was the mental edge
of not allowing Deshawn Painter to catch the ball in comfortable spots;
of stopping the dribble drive; of communicating in help defense and
believes each of these areas were breakdowns during the ODU game and
can be shored up by playing defense with an edge–correctable between the ears. You know how he talks
about the line between havoc and being undisciplined? This was the other
side of the line–the line between effort and edge.
It does not mean VCU fans have to root for ODU in order to help the RPI number. VCU fans need to sort that one out on their own.
Statistic(s) That Jumps Out At Me
entire stat line. His 31 minutes ties a career high and is the fourth
consecutive game his minutes have increased. But eight points, 10
assists, one disputed turnover, nine rebounds, and five steals?
(I say disputed because Weber was credited with the turnover
when Rob Brandenberg threw that pass late in the second half when Weber
wasn't initially looking. Brandenberg double-clutched the pass, so it
could've been interpreted as a Rob turnover. It doesn't matter, but 10/0
would've been more insane.)
The Curmudgeon's View
terrible starts to second halves are making more sense to me right now.
I don't know if it's a maturity, or what, but this team lacks a killer
instinct. At several points on Friday, VCU had the opportunity to step
on ODUs necks, to take an 18-point game and blow it open into the
mid-20s. They did not, and Robby agreed with me that we had the most
tenuous 15-point lead in VCU history.
Let me be clear: this wasn't
backing off with a big lead. We were fortunate to be positioned right
next to the VCU bench and all four coaches pleaded with the team to keep
attacking even with a big lead. They just lacked that edge for some reason.
Stars of the Game
Daniels. Yes, Daniels tied a school record by hitting eight threes and
scoring 24 points. Love that. But inside that was how he got there.
Daniels played with a shot hunter's fire. He took five of VCUs first 10 shots, and
took those five shots in the game's first six minutes. Daniels came out of the tunnel determined to shoot through his slump, and his aggression was rewarded.
Weber. You saw his stat line. Holy moley. But here's a little story. Prior to the start of warmups, one of the VCU managers drapes a towel over the corner of the media
table, right at the end of the VCU bench. When Weber goes to check into
the game, he takes out his gum and puts it on the towel, inserting his
mouthpiece. When he comes out of the game, Weber stops by the towel and
puts his saliva-filled mouthpiece on the towel and re-inserts his gum. This happens over and over and over, including at halftime. Six times on Friday. The kid can't even allow his teeth to rest.
The Freight Train had 13 points and eight rebounds in the second half, a
half in which he played 18 minutes. Graham can improve in all areas of
his game, but I'm trying to find an area in which he is weak. Dandruff?
Seriously, that was another performance in which 23/9 is very important,
but how he got there is more important. When the team sputtered on
offense, Graham went to the basket and produced points.