You knew something was up when Fairleigh Dickinson passed on any shootaround, choosing to arrive at the Siegel Center for the first time about 90 minutes prior to tip. What's more, starting point guard Sekou Harris and reserve and defensive-whiz Yves Jules were not available to play.
This got ugly from very early on, but the 26th straight Stu sellout (StuOut?) was treated to a record-breaking performance from Troy Daniels, and a fuzzy-topped Shaka Smart.
Props to FDUs Kinu Rochford, who posted a granchild-storytime stat line of 30 points and 16 rebounds. Good for him, and good for VCU. I'm betting that stat line makes its way to a white board somewhere at a VCU practice.
FDU looked rattled from the jump, the fried-egg-eyes of an opponent scared by havoc. The Knights had seven turnovers in the first four minutes, when VCU ran out to an 18-5 lead after freshman Melvin Johnson connected on a runner. (Side note: Johnson's awfully strooth with that move. Strooth = strong + smooth.)
The lead was 47-30 at the half and it got worse in the second stanza. VCU rolled off a 28-6 run fueled by four straight treys that brought the lead to 39 at 79-40 with 9:15 to go. The final eight minutes of the contest resembled a Henrico County rec league game.
VCU forced a season-high 34 turnovers in the 96-67 rout. Juvonte Reddic posted his third double-double of the year with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while senior Troy Daniels set a school-record for three-pointers in a game with nine en route to a career-high 27 points.
It was VCUs fifth wire-to-wire victory of the season and seventh straight win overall. The Rams have now led in games for 373 of 520 total game minutes--71.8% of the season.
There are several adjectives that don't quite fit the first half, so we will settle on "rusty." Pick your favorite but the half had a distinct queasy feel to it. The Rams were sloppy on defense, having lost some timing and discipline over the break. There were plenty of steals but also a lot of fouls and near-steals that should've been made.
Offensively there was spotty execution and some ugly shots when they did execute. Smart was perhaps the unhappiest coach in America though his team carried a 17-point halftime lead into the locker room. The Rams were a more settled version of an energetic bunch in the second half, which was comforting to see.
All in all, it was about what you'd expect, and it was the kind of performance that defines why you schedule FDU and not Kentucky coming out of the break.
Where Things Changed
FDU closed that quick 18-5 opening kick to nine, and it was a shaky 12-point lead when Juvonte Reddic flushed a dunk to begin a 7-0 run that took all of 36 seconds. It pushed VCU's lead from 12 to 19 at 35-16, but really it showed VCU would turn it on at will against an overmatched opponent who never really had much interest in playing defense.
What It Means
A check mark on the ledger. You can shake your head in an affirmative manner and move on.
Statistic(s) That Jump Out at Me
I've got a bunch today:
- VCU had four players in double-digits for the sixth straight game. Daniels led the way with 27, along with Reddic (22), Brandenberg (13) and Graham (10).
- With the 20 steals and 34 turnovers, VCU now leads the nation in steal percentage (19.0%) and turnover percentage (30.4%).
- Daniels' nine treys is tied for the most in a game in the NCAA this year. (Omar Strong--Texas Southern, James Southerland--Syracuse, and Ian Clark--Belmont.)
- His nine treys also vaulted him past Chris Brower (175) and Jamal Shuler (170) into sixth-place on the VCU's all-time three-pointers made list as he now sits at 177 for his career.
- VCU has forced 93 turnovers in the past three games.
- FDU came into the game second nationally, hitting 42.3% of its threes. The Knights hit only two of 13 on the afternoon.
- VCU made 37 field goals on the afternoon. The last time VCU made 37 field goals in a game: Purdue in the NCAA tournament. That's not particularly notable, but I never tire of referencing the 2011 NCAA tournament.
- The Rams have made eight or more threes in 10 of 13 games, and taken at least 20 threes in 10 of 13 games.
- VCU is now 21-0 under Shaka Smart when posting double digits in threes and steals in the same game.
- VCU has shot less than 42% from the field just twice this year: Duke (33.3%) and Wichita State (34.7%).
The Curmudgeon's View
Another 30-point blowout, at home, against an undermanned opponent. Big deal. I've seen enough of that. This team is going to need to respond to adversity, and the last time that occurred they were playing in a hotel ballroom in the Bahamas. That seems like a lifetime ago. You need to practice and gain experience in difficult situations, just like you need to practice free throws.
I certainly understand what's happening here--we're blitzing these teams and playing, in reality, 32-minute games. Alabama and Belmont are two very good teams that never stood a chance against the Rams. That is undoubtedly impressive.
But at some point VCU has to learn how to play with a three-point lead, not a 33-point lead. There's a nuance to tight games that matters. You have to gain an understanding of a "good play," because it is defined differently based on time/score situation. You can only gain this understanding by going through it.
There's more. Somebody is going to punch us right in the teeth and we will have to respond. Dayton comes into our building in less than two weeks and the Flyers will not be a pushover. I want us to be totally in the moment for that very first A10 game, and that moment will not be lineup-palooza because we have a 30-point lead.
Stars of the Game
***Troy Daniels. You break a school record, especially with the shooting talent that's come through this program, and you get this honor. Keep in mind, Daniels hit six-of-eight in the second half.
**Juvonte Reddic. Sure he was bigger than everyone else, but Reddic showed off the full arsenal, including his first career three. Don't lose sight of the fact that Reddic ran the floor better and harder than at any other point this season. That matters to this curmudgeon.
*Rob Brandenberg. We talked earlier this year about Rob playing with a scowl on his face, which translated to additional aggression. Like Reddic, Brandenberg turned it up a notch yesterday with two dunks and three other drives for near-dunks. Kid is adding rattlesnake oil to his aggression. Love it.
Bonus stars, because at some point I will tabulate the stars and keep a running total, here's my picks for Longwood:
***Melvin Johnson. He scored just nine points, but Johnson looked in control at all times, one of those games you can see was a clear step forward for the freshman. Plus, he made two moves that were eyebrow-raisers.
**Theus/Weber: Both had 9 assists and five steals, and only one turnover total. I'll take 18 assists, 1 turnover, and 10 steals from my point guard combo, thankyouverymuch. That's running the show, so they split this honor.
Reddic. This could easily have been Troy Daniels (seven threes and 25
points) but Reddic slips past him because of Ju's re-breakout game of 20 points and
five rebounds. Reddic needed a game where the ball found the basket and
he was rewarded for hard play. Reddic hit 9-12 from the field.
Courtesy of Jeff Horne: