The VCU Rams ran their record to 9-5 with a punishing 88-59 win over hapless UNC Wilmington on Monday night.
The VCU Rams ran their record to 9-5 (2-1 in the CAA) with a punishing 88-59 win over hapless UNC Wilmington on Monday night. Sophomore guard Joey Rodriguez netted a career-high 25 points for the Rams, on torrid 8-10 shooting (5-7 from three-point range). Rodriguez and the Rams were hot early and never trailed after jumping out to a 13-2 lead.
Early in the game the storyline for VCU, was, as usual, Eric Maynor. While Maynor often leads the Rams with his scoring, he led Monday night with his passing. During one stretch midway through the first half Maynor dished out assists on three straight Ram possessions, all yielding three-point jumpers–two coming from Rodriguez and one from Brandon Rozzell. Maynor ended the night with a game-high (and season-high) 12 assists, and a very pedestrian (for him anyway) 16 points.
It wasn’t just Maynor still feeling the Christmas spirit. The whole team played unselfishly in the first half, giving and then giving some more. At the seven minute mark of the first half, all of VCU’s 29 points had come by way of assists; twelve field goals and twelve assists. They ended the first half with seventeen field goals, all but three coming on assists.
The crisp VCU passing was buoyed by outstanding perimeter shooting. The Rams shot 52 percent from the floor for the game and an identical 52 percent from beyond the arc, while holding UNCW to just 33 percent shooting.
Coach Grant, debonair as ever, prowled the sideline despite a twenty-five point first half lead. He implored the Ram defense, calling a full court press, demanding intensity. After the team’s disappointing 81-79 loss to Delaware on Saturday (a game in which the Rams relinquished a halftime lead) Grant was pleased to see his team maintain intensity for forty minutes. And this was truly a team effort as the bench saw considerable playing time while regulars like Brandon Burgess and the White Russian were limited.
With the loss UNCW dropped their ninth straight, and fell to 3-12 overall (0-3 in the CAA). This year’s Seahawks are a very young team. They compensate by being very short. While that’s okay in some pursuits (spelunking and ducking come to mind), being very short is less okay when you’re a Division I basketball team.
The Rams’ defense frustrated UNCW leading scorer, 5 foot, 10 inch Chad Tomko, all night. He fouled out with 3:59 remaining in the game, finishing a dismal 1-12 from the floor, scoring only 2 points (well off his 18 points per game average).
Johnny ‘Teen’ Wolf was the lone first-half bright spot for the Seahawks, pouring in 13 points. In fact, he was the only UNCW player with more than one bucket in the opening frame. For some reason, Teen Wolf didn’t play a minute in the second half. When asked about it after the game, UNCW coach Benny Moss shook off other reports claiming Wolf had injured an ankle late in the first half and said, “Well, at halftime Johnny basically refused to ‘Wolf-out.’ He said he was tired of all the Michael J. Fox jokes. So I benched him.”
At certain points during the second half, Coach Moss looked as if he wanted to rip off his tear-away suit to reveal a Seahawks uniform, ready to take the floor himself. If he had, he would have been the tallest Seahawk in the game by far and might have offered greater resistance to Larry Sanders and the other VCU bigs.
Sanders came alive in second half, as VCU sought to exploit its interior size advantage. Sanders notched a double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. This was his third double double on the year and second in the last three games. His continued maturation bodes well for VCU. Sanders’s long and lean physique is reminiscent of Gumby (like the SNL Eddie Murphy version). This is good when Sanders is the intense, dominating-the-paint-Gumby. It’s less good when he is the soft, can’t-make-free-throws Gumby. Monday night he was good Gumby.
VCU is in action next Thursday night in Philly as they face off against the Drexel Dragons. They return home Saturday for a 12 noon match-up with Hofstra.