Once today’s tilt at the Siegel Center ended the men’s basketball teams representing Virginia Commonwealth University and Old Dominion University had met for the 77th time. Most of those contests have been hard-fought. Many have been memorable for going down to the wire. However, before a sellout crowd of 7,567, this time the Rams took the […]
Once today’s tilt at the Siegel Center ended the men’s basketball teams representing Virginia Commonwealth University and Old Dominion University had met for the 77th time. Most of those contests have been hard-fought. Many have been memorable for going down to the wire.
However, before a sellout crowd of 7,567, this time the Rams took the visiting Monarchs to the woodshed; it wasn’t as close as the final score: VCU 61, ODU 44.
ODU head coach Blaine Taylor
Rams sophomore forward/center Larry Sanders led all scorers with 16 points. Several of his two-pointers were crowd-pleasing monster dunks. Sophomore guard Brandon Rozzell added a career-high 12 points, coming off the bench.
“We looked like a young team on a big stage,” said ODU head coach Blaine Taylor, who shrugged off his team’s lackluster performance mostly to the fact he’s running with 10 players who are freshmen or sophomores. As is his custom in post-game interviews after a loss, Taylor managed to give his opponent little credit for taming the Monarchs.
Still, ODU’s coach did have an observation about one particular Ram who impressed him. “[Sanders] is longer than leap year,” Taylor cracked.
VCU senior guard Eric Maynor — the returning CAA Player of the Year — didn’t have a great shooting night, scoring just 14 points, when he had brought a 22.3 points-per-game average into the day. But his nine assists with zero turnovers testify somewhat to how much he controlled the game during the 33 minutes he was on the floor.
“We had a great atmosphere in the building today, said VCU head coach Anthony Grant. “I thought our guys did a great job of understanding the focus they needed to have coming into the game. When you look at how physical the game was, and how hard fought it was, to be able to take care of the basketball the way we did … today was outstanding.”
Part of the “atmosphere” on the Rams home court resembled Saturday Night Live more than it did Saturday afternoon college hoops. For a good part of the game there was at least one too many Blaine Taylors on the floor. That’s because the founder of the Rowdy Rams, Chris Crowley, was doing a Taylor imitation that was more entertaining than the game itself, at times.
Crowley, who usually wears a Ram headdress and yellow T-shirt, was in a coat and tie. He had his hair painted gray. In his usual position on the floor below the pep band and right next to the visitors’ bench, Crowley had plenty of fans and even some grizzled sportswriters laughing at his antics — he imitated Taylor’s mustachioed gestures with the aplomb of a seasoned slapstick comedian.
As Crowley was a voice major (2006), he’s known to many of his fans as “Pavarotti.”
Although the Rams didn’t have a stellar offensive output, they shot just 43.5 percent from the field, this was a game in which there were no long spells when the team played without intensity. VCU ’s effort on defense and in rebounding was superb. ODU hit on 34.5 percent of its shots.
Although it was a physical game for most of the 40 minutes of action the Monarchs simply couldn’t match the Rams’ hustle and intensity.
In the media room, the reporters were kind enough not to point out to Coach Taylor that Coach Grant had only two players in the game who weren’t either freshmen or sophomores — Maynor and junior forward Kirill Pischalnikov.
That, while Taylor had two juniors and a senior on the floor.
With this conference victory, VCU now leads in the overall series with 40 wins to ODU’s 37.
Next up, the Rams (13-5, 6-1 in CAA) head to Atlanta on Wed., Jan. 21, to play the Georgia St. Panthers (5-13, 3-4) at 7:30 p.m. (televised by Comcast).
Update: Click here to see SLANTblog’s VA Top Five for this week.
– Words and photo by F.T. Rea