My apologies for the delay, but there’s a good reason. Instead of writing about Illinois State and Virginia, I spent my lunch yesterday reading this article from Gary Parrish about 15 times. If you have not yet seen it, that’s your loss. It’s phenomenal.
There are three takeaways that fell out of VCUs age-accelerating 68-62 victory over Illinois State that cannot be minimized. They just can’t.
1. I may give you Oregon, maybe, but other than that one this game was VCUs best win of the season. Easily. The Redbirds trotted out multiple ballhandling guards–one of which was a big guard–and had a center who could score. Similar to Old Dominion, Illinois State punched VCU in the choppers and controlled the first 12 minutes of the game. That’s a recipe for disaster. However VCU never backed down, never gave in, and responded to the adversity.
VCU created turnovers on 37.5% of Illinois State possessions and forced 24 in all. I believe Scott Day told me 21 of those turnovers came in the game’s final 24 minutes. On the other hand, the Rams committed just eight turnovers, a +16 on the turnover differential chart. VCU took 25 more shots than Illinois State (65 FGA to 40). Also, Illinois State did not make a field goal the final 8:17 of the contest.
Old. School. Havoc.
In our postgame chat, Shaka Smart mentioned, almost in passing, he liked how we won that game. Don’t underestimate that. Smart LOVED how we won that game, because it was won doing VCU things; VCU things we had not yet really seen this season. This was a “one small step for havoc, one giant leap for the 2014-15 season” kind of win.
Side note: VCU won a game it led for just 4:29, but the Rams led when the clock said 0:00. And Illinois State’s Reggie Lynch has great hair.
2. Jordan Burgess, the master of 10 points and eight rebounds, may likely be the difference in VCU being a good team and a great team. The Rams are going to need a third scorer, and it’s worth noting that VCU is 5-0 this season when Burgess scores nine or more points, and 0-2 when he does not. Burgess hit a big three in the Illinois State game and had two other plays that were big time but the ball didn’t quite bounce his way.
We all know of his toughness and grit–which I maintain is gigantic because we need an SOB on the floor–but Burgess’s ability to ping the stat sheet might turn out to be critical. Granted, Burgess has fouled out of the past two games so the ye olde “defend without fouling” rule comes into effect, but I like where he is headed.
3. It’s being done in minute increments and you’re not going to find it in the stat sheet, but improvement occurs every day for Justin Tillman. His defensive recognition and positioning are getting better. In short, he’s figuring it out. Here’s what I noticed on Tuesday: Tillman would make a mistake, crinkle his face, have a short conversation with a coach, and then not make that same mistake. Tillman is clearly coachable. When you combine that with Tillman’s want-to, keep a close eye on his play. He could become a weapon sooner rather than later.
I think we play an ACC school on Saturday, maybe a Big 10 school. I can’t really remember. It will certainly be fun. Leaving Illinois I had the Peppas It’s Havoc You Fear paean in my head. I could only think of Shaka Smart’s words from last year: we have a lot to work on, but a lot to work with. Encouraged.