Recap: Banged-up VCU improvises past GMU

Every team enters every game as the protagonist of their own carefully crafted narrative. Then the script is thrown out the window. On Wednesday, #18 VCU had to improvise more than usual in order to top GMU with a final score of 72-60.


Sports aren’t premeditated creations. No matter how much a coach trying to build a career, or a fan base fighting to find deeper meaning, or a writer hunting for a narrative may want to sculpt the arc of a game, season, or career, when the ball is tipped anything can happen.

Briante Weber being forced to watch the rest of the season from the sidelines after tearing his ACL, MCL, and meniscus is proof of the powerlessness of desire to trump bad luck. Another protagonist in sports robbed of the happy ending that an author can gift in fiction with a stroke of a pen.

Wednesday was supposed to be about Treveon Graham, humble senior and Atlantic 10 Player of the Year front-runner, displaying even more heroics while putting HAVOC! on his back and leading VCU one step closer to an A-10 title. But after 15 minutes and a 14-0 run, George Mason led by 8 points and Briante Weber was consoling Treveon Graham who would not return to the game after re-injuring his ankle.

VCU responded with a bevy of bizarre lineups in order to mitigate the effect of losing their two best players and to deal with the foul trouble of JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess, and Mo Alie-Cox. Early in the game the Patriots were hitting jump shots, cleaning up the offensive glass, and most disconcertingly forcing VCU turnovers. But the Rams looked deep within themselves and deep into the bench while cutting the deficit to two points at halftime.

Coach Smart & Company continued figuring out their problems in real time after the break. Instead of trying to replicate Weber or Graham, VCU’s underclassmen let their individual characters shine and each cog came together into a machine that can only be described as HAVOC!.

Justin “The Finisher” Tillman scored 10 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting. Michael Gilmore added six points in six minutes on perfect 2-of-2 3-point shooting. Bodies were flying in a spectacular tribute to Weber, but the Rams’ guards simultaneously remained true to themselves. They showed integrity to their own skills and own personalities. JeQuan Lewis displayed his ability to get big men involved while dishing out four assists and scoring 13 points. Doug Brooks tallied 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals while being an invaluable spark. Melvin Johnson led all scorers with 17 points.

The only player to emulate Briante Weber was Mo Alie-Cox. He finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 steals including this impersonation of #2:

Sports only follow predetermined narratives by happenstance. Both teams enter every game self-proclaimed protagonists. Every program enters every season as Aeneas. This week detoured from Coach Smart’s script and Ram Nation’s narrative, but for 25 minutes on Wednesday, the Rams improvised, united, and triumphed in a way that makes something as trivial as The Game valuable in life.

Top performer: The Next Man Up

The Rams travelled to Fairfax knowing Briante Weber would be limited to cheering from the sidelines, but more adversity hit early as Treveon Graham left the game with an ankle injury and several different players dealt with foul trouble.

Whether it was the point guard play of JeQuan Lewis in the absence of an irreplicable starter, the unstoppable offense of Justin Tillman when Mo Alie-Cox sat with two fouls, the spark of Doug Brooks, or the smooth touch of Michael Gilmore, the next-man-up was ready to play when it mattered most.

5 stats

  • Mo Alie-Cox joined VCU’s top-10 list for blocked shots. He’s a sophomore.
  • Wednesday was VCU’s first win against a team from Virginia this season. They are currently 1-3 with losses to Virginia, ODU, and Richmond.
  • Alie-Cox, Tillman, and Gilmore are a combined 44-of-70 (.623) from 2-point range in conference play.
  • Michael Gilmore entered Wednesday just 1-of-9 from 3-point range before hitting both of his 3-point attempts.
  • Jordan Burgess is 1-of-11 (.091) from 2-point range and 5-of-22 (.227) from 3-point range in Atlantic 10 play.

Looking forward

VCU travels to Saint Bonaventure on Saturday at 2:00 PM. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.

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Aaron Williams

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

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