VCU 97, LaSalle 89. Or, You Have Been Put On Notice…
VCU committed 16 turnovers in its thrilling double-OT road win at LaSalle. Missed critical free throws. Allowed the Explorers to shoot 70% in the second half. Scored 97 points but got just nine from the bench. The Rams, for the most part, were unable to unleash havoc on LaSalle, forcing just 16 turnovers in 50 minutes of action.
Yet they won a tough basketball game on the road against a quality basketball team. Honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way. This was one win in the record book but gigantic in terms of mental outlook, confidence, and education.
This edition of the Rams has been questioned nationally, and it's fair, about its ability to score when it isn't getting layups and open court threes genertaed by its frenetic defense. The queries are always a different version of the same theme: when there is no havoc, how good is this team? One word that has been used in connection with this narrative is that VCU is exposed.
Well guess what? Yesterday VCU exposed for everyone that it doesn't require havoc to score. The Rams managed just 13 fast-break points but hopped aboard the Freight Trein to victory. That matters. It showed havoc is not a gimmick, and this basketball team is stocked with talented players who can score in a multitude of ways. Havoc is devastating, but it is merely one of those ways.
You have to give LaSalle, and Tyrone Garland in particular, credit. The Explorers played well. You have to remember that many times when somebody is drilling VCU, it isn't necessarily VCU playing poorly. The other guy, especially in this league, is good. But you have to be a darn good basketball team, not gimmicky, to rally from 10 down with five minutes to play–and six down with one minute to play–against a team shooting 70% and at home. That's talent and guts and character.
This is big for the players going forward. They now know that when Plan A, havoc, is not in full force, they have the skill, ability, and talent to dig in and dig out.
This is also big because opposing teams now have seen that playing well against havoc only gives you an opportunity to win. You still have a long row to hoe. There are different ways to win basketball games, and VCU can win in many of them.
And now everybody knows it.
We need to note the rebounding advantage for VCU. Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright are both big, strong players. The Rams grabbed 77% of available defensive rebounds, and 35% of their own misses. Juvonte Reddic missed eight shots and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds.
I don't know that there are fair words to describe the play of Reddic and Treveon Graham. Yes there is the 61 points and 27 rebounds. And as Shaka Smart said postgame anytime your best two players take 40 shots and make more than half of them you are going to be tough to beat. But those two kids played like men. That duo put an entire basketball team and the hundreds of fans that made the trip to Philly on their shoulders and carried the group to a victory.
Graham and Reddic scored VCUs final 14 points of regulation and all of their points in overtime. The twosome grabbed six of VCUs seven rebounds in that span as well (four rebounds were "team rebounds"). And then: Holy Christmas, Rob Brandenberg. That is what seniors can do. Brandenberg was a non-factor for 47 minutes, but when VCU needed a big shot, there he was. And then, there he was again.
When coaches talk about experience, this is Exhibit A. Brandenberg never hesitated, displaying a confidence that doesn't come from production, but rather from the focus and calmness that comes with being in these situations before and having the trust of your coaches and teammates.
Briante Weber was 7-8 from the line and is now 35-37 since the Old Dominion game. He's 19-20 in A10 games. Weber led the Rams with a +18 efficiency rating yesterday. VCU scored 81 of its 97 points when he was on the floor.
In five A10 games, Reddic is averaging a double-double: 14.4ppg, 10.6rpg.
Loved the quote from John Saunders, ESPNs play-by-play man for the television boradcast. Upon hearing the raucous noise coming from both behind and in front of him, Saunders noted "wherever VCU travels, their fans will be there."