We're going to play with a lot of effort. Our guys are going to be in such good shape that fatigue is not going to be a problem. We're going to play with full effort from snap to whistle on every play the entire game.
What I've been telling everyone that loves Carolina football is that we are going to put a team out there that, number one, is in good shape. We're going to be fit, we are going to be able to play the whole game and we're not going to poop out.
Love him or hate him, The Old Ball Coach knows what he's doing. He can find a way to get his teams home even in less than ideal situations.
This message is very appropriate for Saturday's road win over St. Bonaventure. VCU never trailed after taking a 13-11 lead, but never jacked the lead to double digits until the game's late stages. The Bonnies hit shots and kept the game close, until superior conditioning helped VCU extend the lead and provide the cushion.
The first half lacked any sort of flow--chunky is the best descriptor. Between both teams turning the ball over, fouls, and Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt calling intelligent timeouts, there were multiple stoppages in play. The very second it appeared the Rams were about to snap off one of those 14-2 runs that bury its opponent, Schmidt tapped his shoulders and stopped play.
There were three ties and four lead changes in the first 10 minutes of play, but consecutive jumpers from Jarred Guest, Troy Daniels and Treveon Graham gave VCU its largest lead of the stanza at six, 19-13 with just over eight minutes left before the break.
A three from Rob Brandenberg stretched the Rams' lead to nine at one point, but the Bonnies forced VCU into 10 first-half turnovers and knocked down five three-pointers to cut the VCU lead to 32-29 heading into the break.
Guest played outstanding minutes off the bench, as Graham and Juvonte Reddic battled foul troubles.
The second half was much of the same with the Rams' cushion never getting greater than nine until just under 10 minutes left in the game. However Graham put the squad on his back, finishing with 17 points and pulling in nine rebounds, and VCU slowly pulled away and made just enough free throws down the stretch.
The 72-65 win was VCUs 11th straight victory and moved the Rams to 2-0 in the Atlantic 10.
Where Things Changed
Shaka Smart sensed a moment. He had taken Juvonte Reddic out of the game with about nine and one-half minutes to play, ostensibly to give the big man some rest through the under eight media timeout so that Reddic could play all-out down the stretch.
But after Dimitrius Conger hit two free throws and Bonnie big man Youssa Ndoye grabbed a rebound over DJ Haley and Jarred Guest (who fouled Ndoye), Smart knew he couldn't wait. With 8:10 to play and VCU gripping a 58-53 lead, he summoned Reddic back into play.
Theus, Melvin Johnson, Brandenberg, and Graham were on the floor. One
minute later Troy Daniels replaced Johnson. That lineup, fresher than
its opponent, stifled
the Bonnies for the next 4:42, holding them without a point en route to
an 8-0 run and a 66-53 lead with 3:28 remaining.
What It Means: The Skinny
The St. Bonaventure students came to play, as did the Bonnies. Mark Schmidt's team had big, physical guards who were not necessarily scared of havoc. It was an A10 road game played in the most hostile environment, against the most talented team the Rams have faced in a true road game.
It was a weird, taut game. VCUs led essentially the entire afternoon, but the lead toggled between three and seven points for 90% of the game minutes. The VCU offense was spotty--15 turnovers is probably five too many. For the third straight game the Rams made just five three-pointers. Havoc wasn't collecting turnovers in its wheel-barrow.
However the team showed a resolve--again--that we don't usually see. There will be tougher road tests this season, so it's nice to again take a step forward--a road step. I truly believe St. Bonaventure is going to win games in that building. In sum: this is a game VCU loses in seasons past. (See: UNCW, Georgia State.)
Darius Theus was smiling as we walked from the locker room back out onto the court. He mentioned to me that the game was a lot of fun, that he enjoyed playing in front of a full house. That also bodes well for future challenges and crowds that are coming. Ever the winner, that Darius Theus.
Statistic(s) That Jump Out At Me
10/0. You want proof of the weirdness of this game? VCU committed 10 first half turnovers, and Bona turned them into exactly bupky points.
7/1; 31/6. Theus had seven assists and one turnover Saturday. Theus has committed exactly one turnover in six straight games. Over that time, he has a 31/6 assist-to-turnover ratio.
63.6%; 38.5%. VCU made 21-33 of its two-point shots, and Bona made just 10-26 of its two-pointers. That's stout.
The Curmudgeon's View
Yeah, that two-point shot statistic is pretty impressive, but 5-17 from three is not. That's three straight games VCU has made just five three-pointers. In fact, after hitting 16-34 from three against ETSU, the Rams are 15-64 in the three games since.
Now, while I may be all crunchy I'm not dramatic. VCU didn't escape any of the past three games and the Rams didn't win despite not shooting threes. This team has multiple weapons. However--and this begins on Thursday night with St. Joseph's--there are teams that we will face and we will need that arc weaponry. Let's face it--Bona was preseason 11th or 12th. Saturday played out just about exactly how it should have played out. This pace of swish cannot continue against top teams.
Also, VCU was 13-22 (59%) from the line against ETSU. Then 29-32 (91%) combined against Lehigh and Dayton. And 15-27 (56%) Saturday. I can live with being a 70% free throw shooting team, the cumulative total of these four games. But for the love of everything that grows hair can we level that out a bit?
Stars of the Game
***Treveon Graham. The Freight Train put up a 13-points, five rebounds second half. As he continues to mature, Graham will add noteworthy games to his ledger. In this one, it's the first I can remember where Graham put the team on his back during a close road game.
**Jarred Guest. Allrighty then. Guest played nine total minutes against Dayton and five total minutes against Lehigh. Foul trouble put Guest on the floor for nine first half minutes Saturday. He responded, with seven points, three rebounds, and a steal. Guest also hit a key baseline jumper in the second half.
*Darius Theus. As opposed to Graham, we've seen this kind of game from Theus. The senior simply managed the game extremely well--seven assists and one turnover. Sometimes glitzy is defined by the lack of bad.
Courtesy of Jeff Horne...