That was a decidedly unfun evening for a million reasons. St. Louis took the Rams out of set offense early, VCU shot 3-23 from the field in the game's first 16 minutes, and the Billikens put on an offensive clinic early in the second half. Save a short burst to begin the second half, the last 30 minutes of the game was crafting the final boxscore.
That initial second half burst was also VCUs undoing. The sequence shone the flashlight on the real problem that haunted the Rams all game long. But in order to fully understand it, we have to back up to the latter stages of the first half.
Melvin Johnson made a trademark
(patent pending) floater to cut the St. Louis lead to 32-13 with a
little more than three minutes to play in the first half. From that
point, the Rams made four of their final five shots from the field prior
to the halftime break.
VCU opened the second half by making six of their first seven field goals.
When Jordair Jett made a short jumper from the elbow with 14:30 to play
the St. Louis lead was 52-36.
that sounds strange, it is. VCU bridged the half by making 11 of 13
field goals, a remarkable 84.6% from the field over 8:30. Despite that offensive explosion, the Rams
whittled just three points off the St. Louis lead.
Yes, St. Louis plays very tough defense and made the Rams work. But it was solved. The VCU defense was not there last night. That's the story, plain and simple. For whatever reason, we didn't defend to the VCU standard.
We now drop into a second-place tie with Butler at 9-3, a half-game behind St. Louis. LaSalle lurks a half-game behind us, and Xavier a game behind the Explorers at 7-4.
Butler and St. Louis play on Friday night. VCU gets Xavier on Saturday and Butler the following Saturday. The Musketeers finish the season with St. Louis and Butler. LaSalle has Termple on Thursday and finishes the season with St. Louis.
Time to cinch the belt one loop tighter and take a swig from the Chalice of Passion.
Defeat has a bitter taste but we'll be fine. On balance, you have to
like that the guys never gave in, kept fighting. They overcame a stretch
of shooting–we will talk about the five point-blank misses sequence in
the future–that would make lesser teams wilt. There are lessons to be
learned and this team has shown it can learn.
And let's not discount that St. Louis is a doggone good basketball team.
Statistics That Jump Out At Me
You read the big ones above. A 3-23 start, many from point-blank, crinkles my face remembering it.
10 for three. Melvin Johnson scored 10 points, becoming the first VCU freshman since BA Walker to score in double-figures in three straight games. And while the argument is valid that that six points came in garbage time, I'm sticking with the long term view that Johnson swished 2-3 from three.
2 for 94. Troy Daniels also knocked down two triples to get to 94 for the season. He tied his own school record for three-pointers made in a season.
1.36. St. Louis scored 1.36 points per possession, BY FAR the most efficient offense played against VCU all season. Teams had topped 1.00 (which is average) only seven other times.
The Curmudgeon's View
That was a first-rate butt-whipping. Next.
Stars of the Game
***Darius Theus. Quietly, Theus posted five assists against just one turnover. On a night where the Rams didn't get much going, Theus got the ball to the right spots. Poor shooting masked some good decisions under duress.
**Juvonte Reddic. The 19/12 double-double is less impressive than Reddic's continued assault on the rim. Many of his points came in the game's later stages, but Juvonte didn't let early adversity keep him from continuing to work on the offensive end.
*Melvin Johnson. Like the others, I'm not as worried about statistics (10pts, 3 assists, 0 turnovers) as much as I noticed another step forward for the freshman.
Quick turnaround folks. Don't let it linger. It's happened before and it will happen again. The key is how you respond to this kind of adversity. Xavier awaits on Saturday, another full-on tilt in the A-10.
Oh, be angry today, but get it out of you and let it go. Move on. We've got bigger fish to fry.
Courtesy of Jeff Horne: