Recap: VCU freshmen slam Belmont

Virginia Commonwealth University slammed a short-handed Belmont 78-51 Tuesday night in the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Virginia Commonwealth University slammed a short-handed Belmont 78-51 Tuesday night in the Stuart C. Siegel Center.


We’ve won our share of big games on the road against good teams over the years. The truth is, we’ve caught them not quite as ready to play Belmont as they would be to play somebody else. You don’t catch VCU like that…I didn’t even have hope they wouldn’t be ready to play tonight.Coach Byrd

On the first play, Briante Weber stole the ball which set the tone for VCU’s stifling defense in the first half. The Bruins never settled down as passes were intercepted, balls thrown out of bounds, and Belmont’s bevy of 3-point shooters looked rushed. It took 12.5 minutes for Belmont to reach double-digits and their offense never found any flow.

The Bruins hit five 3-pointers in the second half, but the Rams played their best 3-point defense of the season. The rotations were crisper and close-outs more effective, and Belmont’s talented shooters finished 8-29 (.276) from 3-point range. Meanwhile, VCU’s offense scored 44 points on 15-30 shooting.

Top performer: Justin Tillman

16 points (7-8 2PFG, 2-2 FT), 1 rebound, 1 block

There’s no pretense to Justin. There’s no nonsense. There’s no worrying about things that don’t matter. He just plays–tries to follow the plan–if he makes a mistake he’s hard on himself, but he doesn’t lose confidence. He just does what you want him to do. For that reason in addition to his physical gifts he’s going to be a terrific player here.Coach Smart

Tillman’s performance was the highlight of the night and the freshman highlight of the season. Encoring an 8 point (4-5 shooting) showing against Northern Iowa, Tillman scored early and often and never looked back.

His movement without the basketball was impressive, he ran the court well in transition, and his 5-foot jumper was unstoppable. The highlight of the night came in transition when Briante Weber threw a no-look pass to Tillman who slammed the ball on the Bruins and the world.

Five Man Force of HAVOC!

VCU’s run to the Final Four was driven by offensive and defensive contributions from all five players on the court at any given time. Early this season, VCU’s offense was a two-headed monster of Treveon Graham and Melvin Johnson. Over the last two games, the depth and balance has been remarkable–although Melvin Johnson has just 14 points (2-6 2PFG, 2-12 3PFG).

After a mixed early season, JeQuan Lewis is settling into his role. He distributed with ease on Saturday before scoring 13 points (1-2 2PFG, 3-6 3PFG) on Tuesday.

He can be really, really good if he has a clear head for following our plan and our process, but he’s someone who quite frankly has been inconsistent in that way. There have been times where you can see he’s not himself.Coach Smart

After coming out of nowhere to play 20 minutes against UNI, Doug Brooks has carved out a valuable role in the rotation. His shot looks as confident as ever and defense is quickly developing into a strength.

He almost quit about a week and a half ago. Doug had to come to a realization. “Am I willing to follow the process fully” and understanding that there is going to sometimes be a delay in the gratification. To his credit, he practiced every day really, really well going into the Northern Iowa game.Coach Smart

Michael Gilmore played the most comfortable game of his uncomfortable career. In the first half he skied over defenders in transition for his own highlight and then settled down and went to work the rest of the game.

He’s out there playing on ice skates right now. He’s such a better player than he looks. It’s a credit to how talented this kid is that he’s out there flopping around doing the things he does and he still had 8 points and 8 rebounds. He’s so talented. He may be the most talented of all those guys. But he’s really nervous right now. He needs to settle down.Coach Smart

Freshman point guard Jonathan Williams added 7 assists and no turnovers in 15 minutes. Freshman wing Terry Larrier added 8 points in the second half.

For our young guys, every minute that they play is like putting money in the bank. We gotta keep getting them as much as we can and then down the road we’ll be able to make some withdrawals.Coach Smart

The individual performances were only exceeded by the collective progress of the team. Belmont was missing leading-scorer Craig Bradshaw, and VCU’s athleticism was far-superior, but the Rams have made noticeable strides over the last two games.

5 stats

  • Jonathan Williams dished out 5 assists in his first 7 minutes of action.
  • Belmont finished with 17 field goals and 17 turnovers.
  • VCU’s starters scored 22 points (7-15 2PFG, 2-9 3PFG). The Rams’ bench scored 56 points (16-26 2PFG, 5-13 3PFG).
  • Justin Tillman has 24 points on 11-13 shooting over the last two games.
  • Doug Brooks has made 14 shots both seasons of his career. Last season it took him 55 attempts, this season it took him 29 attempts.

Looking forward

VCU travels to Ohio to play defensive juggernaut Cincinnati. Coach Smart is 6-0 against the state of Ohio. The Bearcats also played a double-overtime game on Saturday. The final score: 56-55 (!).

— ∮∮∮ —


— ∮∮∮ —

To stay up to date on all things VCU Basketball related, follow @rvaRAMnews on Twitter or Facebook and sign up for our email newsletter.

  • error

    Report an error

Aaron Williams

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

There are no reader comments. Add yours.