Rams hang a banner, come home with a win

The VCU Rams beat St. Francis (PA) in a sloppy battle Friday night at the Siegel Center. Before the game, fans relived history as the university unveiled the Final Four banner.

Scores of students were turned away Friday night, November 11th, as the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams celebrated last year’s Final Four run and embarked on a new season. A standing room only crowd watched the young Rams beat the St. Francis (PA) Red Flash 63-57 at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Ram fans gathered early for the hanging of the Southwest Regional Champion Final Four banner. After an epic highlight reel from last March, the banner was revealed to the roar of 7,617 fans. Then in a matter of moments, last season symbolically ended, and the 2011-12 season officially began.

After losing seniors Ed Nixon, Joey Rodriguez, Brandon Rozzell, and Jamie Skeen, a brand new Ram team took the court. While the entire team looked shaky, sophomore forward Juvonte Reddic and junior guard Troy Daniels combined for 41 points.

Undoubtedly the best shooter on the team, Daniels connected on five of fifteen three-point attempts. Third year Coach Shaka Smart was quick to point out after the game, “he can be much much better.” In the post game press conference, individual player’s potential was Smart’s biggest talking point.

Juvonte Reddic was the answer to VCU’s shooting woes. He pulled down eight offensive rebounds and was the Ram’s only inside scoring threat. As Reddic gains notoriety, he will face more focus from defenses, but expect him to thrive this year and take on a large part of the team’s scoring and a majority of the team’s rebounding.

Despite poor shooting and several key turnovers, the Rams were still incredibly fun to watch. Recruited by coach Smart, the current players are better equipped than ever to play “havoc” basketball. VCU has always thrived on a streaky transition style, and their ability to force turnovers will be exciting to watch between now and March. Sloppy at times, this team is playing quality VCU-brand basketball.

Before the game, Joey Rodriguez and Ed Nixon received standing ovations and during the second half NBA players, and former Rams, Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders also received ovations.

VCU’s basketball fan base is undoubtedly stronger than ever, and students are going to have to compete more for access to games than in previous years. Despite the improved atmosphere of competition, the west-end student section sits through the majority of the game. Frustrated with the west-end’s subpar support, the east-end student section chanted “stand up” on multiple occasions. It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next few months as less serious fans are excluded from the games.

Five statistics

* Despite being the teams second leading scorer last season (14.3 pts.), Senior Bradford Burgess went 0-12 from the field with only two points
* Juvonte Reddic set careers highs for points and rebounds with 19points and 10 boards.
* Troy Daniels set career highs for points and rebounds with 22 points and 6 boards.
* The Rams had 14 steals and forced 20 turnovers
* Even with the expansion of the Siegel Center, the game failed to set an attendance record. 7,838 fans attended the ODU game on 2/11/2006.

Looking Forward

Thursday November 17th, the Rams travel to Charleston to face Seton Hall as part of the Charleston Classic. The eight-team field includes Tulsa, Western Kentucky, LSU, Northwestern, Seton Hall, Georgia Tech, and Saint Joseph’s. In the second round, VCU will have the opportunity to play either GT or Saint Joseph’s.

The Ram’s next home game is Wednesday, November 30th at 7:30pm vs South Florida.

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Aaron Williams

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

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