Recap: VCU loses, and the burden of expectations

#10 Virginia Commonwealth University fell short in a 2 hour and 45 minute, foul-plagued battle with Georgetown Sunday afternoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

VCU-Georgetown

#10 Virginia Commonwealth University fell short, 80-84, in a two hour and 45 minute, foul-plagued battle with Georgetown Sunday afternoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Recap

After going up 9-0 against Northeastern, and 10-0 against Kansas State, Georgetown bolted out of the gates to go up 8-0 on VCU. The Rams were held scoreless for 5:01 until Rob Brandenberg hit two free-throws. Then something changed. VCU went on a 10-3 run, and for the first time in too long, fans remembered why they enjoy this game.

The Rams led 30-29 at the half. VCU had eight fouls. The game had flow.

What took 20 minutes in the first half took 4:52 in the second half as the Rams tallied eight early fouls. It was frustrating, but an 8-0 run in 30 seconds powered the Rams to a 48-41 lead and all seemed to be forgotten. Then the whistles returned. After only attempting three first half free-throws, the Hoyas attempted 34 free-throws in the second half.

VCU finished with 21 second-half fouls, 29 total fouls, and the Hoyas attempted 37 free-throws. Georgetown added 32 fouls, and the Rams attempted 47 free-throws. In the second half, a drive into the paint was as good as a first class ticket to the charity stripe.

Down the stretch, Georgetown was extremely effective at getting the ball to their best free-throw shooters Smith-Rivera and Starks–and the Hoyas deserve credit–but it’s tough to argue that this game wasn’t decided because Georgetown is a better free-throw shooting team. When 61 fouls are called in a game, either the game is too physical and the refs need to huddle up both teams, or something is wrong with the definition of a foul.

Georgetown was brilliant from the free-throw line down the stretch. The Hoyas hit 16 straight free-throws and 17 of their last 18 while the Rams were trying to mount a comeback. Joshua Smith, a career 59% free-throw shooter finished 9-of-10, Smith-Rivera finished 5-of-6, and Markel Starks finished 10-of-10.

Despite the adversity, the Rams still had chances to win. With 3:08 remaining and a six point deficit, Briante Weber missed two free-throws that would have altered the dynamic of the game. With 1:03 remaining and a six point deficit, Rob Brandenberg fouled the Hoyas’ best free-throw shooter. In the end, it was all too little, too late.

It’s tough to win when your two best players–a duo that hopes to finish on the A-10 first team–finished a combined 4-19 from the field. Treveon Graham tallied 17 points but was 2-10 from the field and Juvonte Reddic finished with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting. Reddic also struggled against Florida State.

Sure the Rams’ 3-point shooting has been historically weak, but Reddic averaged 14.6 and 8.1 last season and this season he is averaging 11.2 and 5.1. It’s still early, but the Rams will be a much better team when they get back the NBA-bound, all-time VCU great, screams when he posterizes defenders, senior-leader Juvonte Reddic.

The Burden of Expectations

“We have a lot to work on, but we have a lot to work with.”Shaka Smart on 10/14/13

This short season has been marked by the burden of expectations. It can be felt on Twitter, on Facebook, and walking through the streets of Richmond. Fans are wondering, “What’s wrong with the Rams?”

It’s important to remember that VCU is 4-2 with a road win against a very good Virginia team, and their two losses are to teams that will probably spend time in the top-25 this season. In many ways, they are ahead of schedule for a Coach Smart team. The Rams have finished 1-2 in their previous two exempt tournaments. In 2011-12, they were a very bad team for the first 5.5 games.

Both years the Rams responded. In 2011-12 they left Charleston and won eight straight games and 19 of their next 21 games. Last season they left the Bahamas and won 13 straight games and 18 of their next 20 games. With a coach like Shaka Smart, I’ll bet bad in November turns into good in March ten times out of ten. With a coach like Shaka Smart and the talent of the 2013-14 Rams, I’ll bet bad in November turns into scary good in March.

Before leaving Richmond, Coach Smart said, “Regardless of the outcome, when we get back here and get on the practice court, we’re going to need to get better. We’re going to need to improve. We’re going to need to make progress.” Now they just have to get to work and do it.

Top performer: Briante Weber

22 points, 8-12 shooting, 6-10 free-throws, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover, 4 steals

Despite missing those two important free-throws, Briante Weber did more than any other Ram to win this game. He’s ahead of where Darius Theus was in 2011 when #10 was taking over the point guard, and every time Weber takes the court, he does something I’ve never seen him do before.

Did anyone anticipate that Weber would be able to score in so many different ways by November 24th of his junior campaign? He has the second highest field goal percentage on the team at .523, and he’s scoring 1.59 points per shot attempt. The highest mark on the team last season was 1.43 by Juvonte Reddic.

Coach Smart has stated that he doesn’t want his point guard to lead the team in points or shot-attempts, but Coach Smart probably can’t complain about shot-selection. Weber hasn’t forced it, and more often then not he’s taking shots that he can’t pass up: lay-ups off of steals, burning past defenses when they fall asleep, and his automatic transition pull-up jumper.

He’s finding open players, but those players need to hit shots or be able to catch the ball in the post for him to tally assists. He’s also been one of the more responsible Rams with the rock. Weber is one of the few players that has not contributed to the Rams’ turnover woes.

Weber has at least 65 more games to play at VCU. Sure he will miss a few free-throws at important times again, but he will also embody HAVOC! while stuffing stat sheets in unprecedented ways. This is a guy who will probably tally a triple-double if not a quadruple-double while getting scary close to the NCAA record for steals. HAVOC! is a high-wire act between the worst and best plays. It’s high risk, high reward, and I can think of no one better to lead the Rams across the tight rope than Briante Weber.

5 stats

  • The game averaged one foul every 39.3 seconds and one free-throw every 28.6 seconds.
  • This was the first game since 3/17/12 that Brandenberg scored 11+ points and the Rams lost. VCU was 19-0 in the past two seasons when he scored 11 or more.
  • The Rams have forced 51 turnovers in their two losses this season.
  • 29 fouls is the most ever called on a Coach Smart team. The second most is 26. The last time 29 fouls were called on VCU was 11/29/07 in a loss to Hampton.
  • VCU is 38 of 118 (.322) from 3-point range this season. The last time they finished a season with a lower percentage was 1999-2000 when the Rams finished 150-514 (.292) from range.

Box Score

Georgetown

Player Min TP 2FG 3FG FT-FTA OR DR PF A TO Blk Stl
Markel Starks* 23 5-9 1-4 10-10 2 3 4 5 7 0 2
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera* 26 3-6 5-6 5-6 0 3 2 1 5 0 4
Jabril Trawick* 1 0-1 0-0 1-2 0 2 5 0 2 0 0
Nate Lubick* 4 2-3 0-0 0-0 2 5 5 1 3 0 1
Joshua Smith* 17 4-6 0-0 9-10 0 4 3 0 1 2 0
Mikael Hopkins 4 1-2 0-0 2-3 0 3 4 1 1 0 0
Aaron Bowen 4 2-2 0-1 0-0 1 2 2 0 3 1 0
Reggie Cameron 3 0-1 0-0 3-4 0 3 2 0 1 0 1
Tyler Adams 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Moses Ayegba 2 0-0 0-0 2-2 0 2 4 0 1 0 0
John Caprio 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
200 84 17-30 6-11 32-37 6 28 32 8 26 3 8

VCU

Player Min TP 2FG 3FG FT-FTA OR DR PF A TO Blk Stl
Briante Weber* 22 8-12 0-0 6-10 2 4 4 3 1 0 4
Rob Brandenberg* 11 1-5 1-4 6-8 1 1 5 4 3 0 3
Treveon Graham* 17 1-6 1-4 12-14 6 3 5 1 3 0 1
Terrance Shannon* 3 1-2 0-0 1-2 1 3 1 0 2 0 2
Juvonte Reddic* 7 2-7 0-2 3-4 1 1 1 0 2 1 2
Jarred Guest 0 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 0 3 0 2 1 0
Mo Alie-Cox 1 0-2 0-0 1-2 1 1 4 0 0 1 0
Melvin Johnson 16 1-3 3-6 5-7 1 1 1 1 1 0 0
Jairus Lyles 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
JeQuan Lewis 3 0-0 1-2 0-0 0 0 1 1 3 3 0
Doug Brooks 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
200 80 14-38 6-18 34-47 14 15 29 9 17 4 15

Looking forward

VCU will try to regroup on Friday, November 29th against Northeastern. Using a 3-2 zone, the Huskies beat Georgetown on Thursday afternoon.

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Related

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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