Let's be very clear: that was a better win than it appears. Northeastern is not an easy team to play. Ever. They play funky zone schemes on defense, and Bill Coen is a Basketball Boris Spassky. Even in victory, you leave a game against Northeastern the same way you leave a three-hour business meeting.
"Glad I survived that one," is the quote as you suck on a bottle of water.
Throw on top of that a wounded VCU team. The Rams were without Jordan Burgess and Terrance Shannon. Treveon Graham had a tough week physically. And there was the mental hangover from Puerto Rico. So it was no surprise to open your eyes and see a 49-49 tie.
VCU then did what good teams do--found an extra gear. Most of the roster took a step forward last night. To wit:
Treveon Graham: He didn't start because he didn't practice during the week. But Graham looked noticeably calmer, not rushing things on the offensive end. Shaka Smart said in postgame maybe he didn't think too much. Whatever it was, the game looked easy to Graham last night, and that's the first time I've seen that all year.
Mo Alie Cox: Yes, we know five blocks and the defensive goaltending. But Cox's energy, enthusiasm, and body language were all A+ last night. Cox was also able to cover up Scott Eatherton in the post. The swarming post defense was critical.
Briante Weber: This kid is doing point guard things. Georgetown cut down passing lanes so Weber scored. Virginia put pressure on him to manage the floor so Weber did. Last night, Weber played the role of distributor, seven assists and two turnovers. I'm telling you, Weber is killing it right now. Don't believe me? Fine. Shaka Smart has played Weber 30 or more minutes four times this season, including the past three games. Believe him.
Juvonte Reddic: The stat line shows 17/10, but I like the five offensive rebounds and the activity. Even when he got his shot blocked, Reddic continued through the play.
Gang Rebounding: NU had not been outrebounded by any opponent this year, including Georgetown and Florida State, who combined to outrebound VCU by 21. VCU won the board war 31-26.
The point is that it was a collective step forward heading into a TOUGH battle with Belmont. We have words for that, too, but later tonight. But you should feel better that VCU played an identity game and did both what VCU does, and what good teams do.
Still too many layups. NU was the fourth straight opponent to shoot 50% or better and put on a bit of a dunkfest for awhile. The weird thing: NU shot 50% but only scored 66 points. Who knows? And 6-22 from the arc won't get it done throughout the season.
Belmont later tonight.