The fury of the Commonwealth was uncorked upon the poor Tribe, assassinating William and Mary’s feeble upset hopes.
It was a total team effort from the Rams on Homecoming night, as all five starters produced between 8 and 13 points on excellent all around shooting to trounce William and Mary 76 to 54. The Ram press was in full force all night long, helping to create 25 points off the Tribe’s 19 turnovers.
VCU returned from last week’s away loss to UNC-Wilmington ready to play, hopping out to an early lead and never looking back. The Rams never let the Tribe within 10 points after a rocket-like ascension early on, and kept the lead above 15 for much of the game. The Tribe found their stroke late in the first half, closing with an 11 to 5 run, reaching a halftime score of 39 to 24. That would be the highlight of their night, however, as the Rams looked to get back on track in their CAA schedule.
Though the outcome of the game was entirely unconcerning, there were some injuries that were. Brandon Rozzell went down with a knee injury with 13.9 seconds remaining in the game after a tough collision away from the ball. According to Anthony Grant after the game, it was just a re-aggravation of a previously hyperextended knee. Rozzell has been averaging 20 minutes and 7 points per game, and has dropped in some clutch three pointers this season.
Eric Maynor also went down in the second half with some sort of head injury after being pushed into his own bench. Somehow between being pushed and leaving the court dazed, Maynor managed to drop in 2 more points on a fast break outlet pass. Maynor returned after only a few minutes of inactivity looking alert and ready to play.
VCU got off to a hot start, with a Sanders hook shot in the lane off the opening possession. The VCU press seemed to catch W&M off guard on the subsequent inbounds pass, leading to a quick turnover and a Rodriguez 3-pointer, putting VCU up 5-0 before the Tribe could even attempt their half-court offense. The W&M zone isn’t collapsing well on the ball, allowing Sanders and Pishchalnikov to the inside game for 4 early baskets.
At the first media timeout, VCU’s press had caused 3 turnovers, leading to an 11-5 lead with 15:30 to play in the first half. VCU was 5 for 6 from the floor at this point.
VCU’s offense seemed to slow down as Pishchalnikov and Sanders took a bit of a rest, but the offense picked up again to take a 22-10 lead with 7:13 remaining.
That’s when the fury of the Commonwealth was uncorked upon the poor Tribe, assassinating William and Mary’s by-then-feeble upset hopes.
Joey Rodriguez took what seemed like a terrible 3 point shot. That’s until Larry Sanders apparated out of nowhere to snag the ball out of the air with one extended nine-foot arm and slam it home. The Siegel center at this point registered approximately 4.7 on the Richter scale. Feeding off the crowd, the VCU offensive went intercontinental over the following few possessions. A Maynor floater in the lane, a Pishchalnikov finger roll, and a ridiculous Maynor three-pointer (after which he fell over practically on top of my laptop, requiring me to push him back on to the court using the very fingers typing this article) had VCU up by 19 with 3:29 remaining in the half, and Tribe coach Tony Shaver so frustrated that he earned himself a technical foul. After two calm foul shots from Maynor, the Rams led 34 to 13 and the outcome was never again in even the shadow of a doubt.
As the second half wore down beneath 10 minutes remaining, the sold out Siegal Center croud became so bored that they started doing a progressively more boisterous wave while the Rams were on offense, while taking no-noise naps during the Tribe’s offensive possessions. I didn’t even mind. Their intensity during the first half earned them the chance to be lazy. My only request to the Siegal Center Faithful: do the Black and Gold chant more often, not just when the students coordinate their shirts to their seating location, and when the game is already out of reach. Make signs, and get the cheerleaders and the non-students involved. Imagine being a poor William and Mary basketball player while each side of a sold out arena is chanting either “Black!” or “Gold!” at each other. From the court, it sounded incredible.
Some good injury related news happened in this game as well: T. J. Gwynn returned after 14 games on the sidelines to a cheer from the crowd. Gwynn has the potential to be a solid contributor, particularly given VCU’s lack of depth in their frontcourt.
Prior to the game, Eric Maynor was recognized at mid-court for becoming VCU’s all-time career assists leader to a standing ovation from the sold out Siegal Center crowd.