If you ever wanted to know what a true team effort looks like, pull a tape of VCUs semifinals win today over GW as Exhibit A.
Briante Weber had 16 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and countless deflections and pestilence plays. Juvonte Reddic had 10 important rebounds, several of the big boy pants variety when VCU needed to control the glass and not allow GW second shots.
Treveon Graham made 8 of 11 field goals and scored 22 points, but it was basket after basket when the Rams needed a basket that mattered. Rob Brandenberg hit three threes, each more important than the last. Jordan Burgess struggled from the field but had four steals and played a rock solid floor game absence of Melvin Johnson.
And Oh, Mo. My goodness, Mo Alie Cox played like the baddest man in a game chock full of men. The ledger will read eight points, seven rebounds, and two blocks, but Alie Cox was a physical force in the paint. He all but eliminated Kavin Larsen in the second half, covering up the big man and denying his effectiveness.
The Rams dominated on the glass in the second half, owning a 20-11 rebounding advantage. Much of that was due to gang rebounding, and an irrepressible spirit that had VCU players coming at GW in waves. In a game of high intensity, GW played very hard for 32 minutes. It was eight minutes shy of what the Colonials needed to match VCU. It isn't a coincidence that GW didn't make a field goal for the final 7:43 of the game.
Melvin Johnson was crying at the end of the game. Johnson went down with a terrible knee injury about five minutes into the game and would return with his leg in a cast. His teammates had said they were going to win an A10 seminfinals matchup for him. They did exactly that, and Johnson was appreciative. He also knew how connected this bunch of players has become.
The St. Joseph's Hawks await. They are in the way of an A10 championship. Phil Martelli's crew beat the Rams a month ago in Philly, 69-62. Langston Galloway popped 24 points and Halil Kanacevic was an all-around PITA. There may or may not have been a contrvoersial charging call at the end on Treveon Graham.
The Hawks can run a starting five as talented as any in the conference. Galloway is an assassin, Ronald Roberts an athletic and dangerous big man. Kanacevic is the straw the stirs the drink, able to affect the game in a number of ways. He had 26 pointds and 17 rebounds today in their win over St. Bonaventure.
St. Joseph's also features De'Andre Bembry, the conference's co-freshman of the year. Bembry is a solid midrange player who can also knock down a three. And finally senior point guard Chris Wilson is a program kind of kid–does a little bit of everything.
Here's the rub: there's not much to write about after those five players. If you discount the final minute of garbage time today, Martelli played his bench a grand total of 11 minutes. Papa Ndao, who missed the regular season game with the flu, got 10 minutes. Daryius Miles played one minutes.
That's it. Kanacevic, Wilson, and Bembry played 39 minutes each. Galloway played 33 minutes. Roberts played 32 minutes.
On Friday in St. Joseph's 70-67 win over Dayton, it was more of the same. Ndao again got 10 minutes and Miles two minutes. Galloway went all 40 minutes, with Roberts and Wilson getting 38 minutes. Bembry got 37 minutes and Kanacevic battled foul trouble and played a miniscule 35 minutes.
The point of all of this: if there were ever a time for the cumulative effect of havoc to appear, it is this game.
The other side of that coin: the one thing VCU did not pack on its trip to Philly in February was enthusiasm. The Rams slogged through 32 minutes before turning on the jets. I don't think motivation will be a problem tomorrow.
St. Joseph's is an active, athletics team. VCU needs to get between their ears, because once the legs start failing the mind will tell the legs that's okay if it's under constant stress. There's your winning formula: attack, and then attack.
And win or lose, start making plans for the next step in the journey.
But win anyway, right Maya?