Recap: VCU wins but where are the seniors?

JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess, and Treveon Graham have carried VCU recently. Where are the Rams’ most experienced players Juvonte Reddic and Rob Brandenberg?

Virginia Commonwealth University topped struggling Wofford 72-57 Tuesday night in the Stuart C. Siegel Center. Junior Treveon Graham finished with 18 points and freshman JeQuan Lewis finished with a career-high 16 points, but for the second game in a row seniors Juvonte Reddic and Rob Brandenberg were extremely quiet.


Entering the season, so much of the hype surrounding VCU was based on the new pieces they added and the pieces the Rams returned. Recently, freshmen JeQuan Lewis and Jordan Burgess have been consistent, efficient, and timely. After a few tough shooting stretches early, Treveon Graham is back to playing at an all-conference level.

JeQuan Lewis may be an even more consistent/efficient contributor than Treveon Graham. His shooting numbers are very impressive, his turnovers are plummeting, and tonight he broke Jaylen Allen’s ankles in a way not seen at VCU in a long time. Jordan Burgess showed he can score on Thursday, but his defense stood out on Tuesday. He spent most of the night guarding Wofford’s leading scorer Spencer Collins who finished 1-of-9 from the floor with two points and three turnovers.

If the newcomers and Treveon Graham are playing so well, then why did VCU just look OK tonight (remember, Wofford is now 1-7 against DI opponents)? Where are the seniors?

Rob Brandenberg’s offense has been in a serious funk. He’s scored 17 points in the last three games while shooting 3-of-11 from 2-point range and 2-of-13 from 3-point range. After an efficient start to the season, he’s shot above 30% just once in the last seven games, and that was a 4-of-10 performance against EKU.

On offense, Brandenberg has never been the model for consistency. Coach Smart is more process oriented than result oriented, and he chalked up tonight as tough shooting. Shooting is fickle, he’s getting it done on defense, and his attitude has been great compared to the past, but VCU needs buckets from their starting shooting guard.

The more concerning case is preseason first team Atlantic 10 power forward Juvonte Reddic. After a slow start, Reddic reeled off a string of double-doubles highlighted by a 24 points, 12 rebound, 4 block, 2 steal performance against ODU. Finally, VCU’s rock had returned. Since then, he’s attempted seven shots and grabbed 11 rebounds in two games.

After the game, Mat Shelton asked Coach Smart an important question, “Juvonte Reddic was limited again tonight. How much of his [lack of] touches are guys just not getting him the ball, and how much is him not working hard enough to get the ball?”

He was not into it tonight. It’s not acceptable. Listen, Ju’s a great kid, he’s come a long way since he got here, we’ve been hard on him, and we’ve been demanding of him. We figured out a long time ago, that in early May when he graduates he will still be a long way away from being the finished product of Juvonte Reddic. Probably at some point when is 27, 28, 30, he’ll figure out all of this stuff. Our job is to speed up that progression as fast as we can…He’s a guy that as a senior just has to take ownership.

To answer your question, tonight it was 99% him. It wasn’t guys not throwing him the ball. If he does what we ask him to do–demands the ball and goes and gets it off the glass, he’ll get it as much as anybody…I asked him why, he said he didn’t know.

The success of the players who will return next year versus the seniors is starting to make this season feel like a stepping stone to the future rather than the arrival it was billed as. If this continues, that may be the case–but remember, the last time the future seemed more important than the present was early March 2011. A few good shooting nights from Brandenberg and a change in mindset from Juvonte Reddic could be the difference between not making the tourney and the Sweet 16.

Play-by-play, not much stands out about this game. A fifteen-point victory rarely feels so unmemorable, but there were a few positive trends. VCU posted a season-low eight turnovers which is extremely promising. A +12 turnover margin is more on pace with 2011-2013 than the numbers the Rams have posted this season. VCU also won the foul battle 26-14 while attempting 34 free-throws to the Terriers’ 14. When Treveon Graham freight trained down the lane, Wofford struggled to stop him even when they fouled.

Still, the Rams need to improve. Wofford entered the game ranked 305th in defensive effective field goal percentage and the Rams shot just 37.5% from the field. The Rams allowed 11 offensive boards for the second game in a row, only this time it was to a team that the Rams should have smothered. Wofford lacks size, and they have been abused on the boards all season. When the Rams play teams like George Washington and Saint Louis, they will need to do much better in order to win.

Loudest Moment: 105 dBs. 4:04 remaining in the first half. Rob Brandenberg grabbed a steal and then alley-ooped it to Jarred Guest.

Top performer: JeQuan Lewis

19 minutes, 16 points, 4 steals, 0 turnovers, 4-5 2FG, 1-3 3FG

If they don’t stop, then I just keep going until they stop me.JeQuan Lewis

JeQuan Lewis is a scoring legend at Dickson County High School. At VCU it took him a few games to get going, but JeQuan Lewis has been the Rams’ most timely and efficient scorer over the past five games.

Games Points PPG 2FG 3FG
1-7 27 3.9 8-15 (.533) 1-6 (.166)
8-12 62 12.4 10-17 (.588) 10-19 (.526)

He has so many weapons at his disposal. If he can improve his point guard play, then the sky is the limit for his career at VCU. He started the season “not guarding anyone” according to Coach Smart, but he is improving and “the better he gets on D, the more he is going to play.”

Coach Mike Young was full of quotes, and he described Lewis saying, “he blows you up off the bounce” and “he can flat tear down the nets off of it from deep.” The bottom line is “He just carved us up.”

5 stats

  • Rob Brandenberg is four points away from becoming VCU’s 33rd or 34th 1,000 point scorer.
  • Treveon Graham is eight points away from becoming VCU’s 33rd or 34th 1,000 points scorer.
  • VCU, minus bench players Lewis and Guest, finished just 13-of-44 (.295) from the field.
  • Jairus Lyles scored his first points as a VCU Ram going 2-of-4 from the charity stripe on the night.
  • Juvonte Reddic started the season 3-of-3 from 3-point range. Now, Jarred Guest and Mo Alie-Cox are a combined 3-of-3 from 3-point range on the season.

Looking forward

VCU will face Virginia Tech in the Richmond Coliseum at 5:30 PM on Saturday as part of the Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic. The Hokies are outpacing expectations, and they are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation.

Photos by: Will Weaver

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Aaron Williams

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

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