Mike Lonergan, meet the Velvet Steamroller.
VCU played its best “team game” all season. The offense was a tad sludgy early and the Rams missed open shots, but once it cranked up it was a thing of beauty. For me, the guys did a phenomenal job of making the right reads–BY FAR the best of the season. They attacked when they could, were patient when the first attack was thwarted, and for the most part avoided ridiculous plays.** As Coach Smart said, shot quality was perhaps the best all season.
(**–notwithstanding the play where The Melvin went Hollywood and missed a wide open layup, Justin Tillman missed a wide open follow, and then VCU was called for a travel when Tillman and Treveon Graham fought for the rebound with each other. That’s one of those sequences that was such an unmitigated disaster, I don’t know that you can get angry. You have to laugh.)
Defensively, they played like teammates. There were individual efforts–I scribbled notes about Terry Larrier and JeQuan Lewis jumping passing lanes, and Mo Alie Cox engulfing Kevin Larsen–but it was more. Help defense was on time, switches were made with ease, and when someone got into trouble somebody came to his rescue. VCU fixed it from there. That’s great defense, but perhaps more importantly that’s maturity and a sign of chemistry.
Side note: let’s not let Tillman get lost in the Mo Love. He came off the bench and did a number on Larsen as well. Tillman is great with his positioning and raw athleticism and you can see him getting stronger. On one play, Tillman was positioned ideally to deny Larsen the ball. The pass came anyway and Larsen simply overpowered Tillman. That won’t happen in the future. Larsen took just four shots, and two of those were threes. Cox and Tillman took Larsen out of any comfort zone he wanted.
In the interest of time, because I spent part of lunch talking about the 2002 CAA tournament, I will summarize highlights via the bullet point and save the adjectives for another day. Besides, Chris Kowalczyyzzckzz writes everything I would’ve written:
- GW was bigger at every position and the leading rebounding team in the A10. VCU outboarded them 47-36. However more importantly than overall margin is this–VCU grabbed 45% of its misses, meaning the Rams got second shots on essentially every other possession.
- Three Rams hit double figures–none of which have Graham, Johnson, or Weber stitched on their jersey.
- By my count, GW made three field goals in a span of 27:49 bridging the half. That’s from roughly 11 minutes to go in the first half until three minutes were left in the game. THREE. FIELD. GOALS.
- My favorite stat: for the sixth time this season, the opposition had as many turnovers as made field goals. GW had 14 made field goals and committed 16 turnovers.
- GW had only given up 70 points three times all season. Now it’s four, as VCU moves to 13-0 when it scores 70 or more points.
- In the battle of touted freshmen, Terry Larrier played the role of Mike Tyson to Yuta Watanabe’s Michael Spinks.