Category Archives: Sports

Bowden’s Breakdown

Malik Bowden’s Men’s Basketball Blog

Last Friday’s game against St. Louis resulted in a clutch win for the Rams, and another memorable moment added to Treveon Graham’s legacy. In the only game of the week for the Rams they traveled to the mid-west to take on the St. Louis Billikens. In the past few years these two teams have developed a rivalry. Last year the Rams split the season series winning at home by 11 in a game where students camped out for the best seats. In the other tilt last season the Rams fell short by two points after making a late game comeback where they once trailed by 11 points.

Last Fridays game was nothing short of stellar. The Rams and Billikens traded blows with each other, no team could pull away. VCU once lead by eight with 9:23 left in the first half, but Saint Louis answered outscoring the rams 20-10 in the last9:05 of the half. At the break the teams were locked in a 34-34 tie. Even with the Rams more experienced lineup Saint Louis was able to rally around their young team primarily made of sophomores, and freshmen to stay competitive in this game.

The second half was much of the same story. As much pressure as the Rams gave their opponent they could only build a six point lead at best. A bright spot throughout the game was VCU’s improved patience, and execution in the half court. Although they didn’t capitalize on all their open looks by only shooting 36.7 % the first step in having a good half-court offense is to get good looks. As the game came down to the finals seconds VCU found themselves in a national upset alert, down two points with 42 seconds left after a Saint Louis jumper.

With the game hanging in the balance the Rams calmly answered with Briante getting in the lane and finding Jordan Burgess in the opposite corner for a cold blooded three ball that happened to be his only points of the night, putting VCU up 61-60 with 19 seconds left. Saint Louis then was able to tie the game on a questionable lose ball foul called on Jordan, and tied the game up on a made free throw. VCU called their last timeout with seven seconds on the clock. As the team came back on the floor the final point would be decided by the two players on the floor with the most experience. Luckily both of those players happened to be wearing black, and gold. The ball was initially passed to Briante then pitched cross court to Treveon, and the freight train earned his nickname by driving the length of the floor finishing at the rim through contact given by the Billikens, and putting the Rams up by two with a second left. Saint Louis called a timeout to set up a long Hail Mary play that turned out to be unsuccessful, and the Rams escaped still unbeaten in conference play. VCU extend their winning streak to 11 games now. Treveon led the team in scoring with 21 points, and six rebounds. Briante also stepped up adding 15 points to the Rams effort.

VCU will finally return home after a three game road trip to take on the second best team in the A-10, George Washington this coming Tuesday, and Saturday the Rams will play cross town rival Richmond on Saturday. With two wins this week, and possible upsets across the nation the Rams could find themselves inching closer, and closer back to that top ten rankings in the AP Poll.

VCU Men’s Basketball Blog

The VCU Rams displayed their resiliency with a couple of tough wins on the road last week. They went on the road to defeat a quality Rhode Island team last Tuesday, 65-60, and escaped Pittsburgh with a 70-64 victory on Sunday against a very competitive Duquesne team that entered the game with a 6-9 record. At no point was it pretty, but the Rams were able to maintain their perfect A-10 record (5-0).

Last weeks’ road trip reminded us all that Treveon Graham is the best player on the team, not that many people needed a reminder. Graham sprained his ankle early in the second half, but continued to play through the injury. With a sprained ankle Graham led VCU to a sluggish victory over Rhode Island. He scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The senior was 4-8 from the three point line while the rest of the team shot an inefficient 4-16 from three point range. A Graham-less VCU team may be good enough to beat URI but, the team that showed up last Tuesday would not have defeated URI without the preseason A-10 first teamer.

Graham was expected to start against Duquesne four days after his ankle injury, however a last minute decision kept him from playing. Against lowly Duquesne, Graham’s absence was an opportunity for the younger players to get extended playing time to the team as a whole. Freshman, Terry Larrier got to start in place of Treveon Graham, Larrier averages 16 minutes per game this year, but he only played 11. The freshman scored 5 points; he shot 1-3 from three point range and made both of his free throws.

The player who filled the scoring void left by Graham was JeQuan Lewis; the sophomore led all scorers with 16 points. Lewis also dished out five assists and only one turnover in his 29 minutes of play. Lewis is one of the most talented offensive players on the team but he is also mistake prone. The Rams could use a breakout second half of the season by the sophomore. Doug Brooks quietly contributed 10 first half points in only nine minutes of action. Brooks’ game is really evolving from last year when he unsuccessfully threw up as many threes as possibly. Now the sophomore is showing an ability to drive to the basket and otherwise contribute inside the three point arc. His increase in minutes from his first season with VCU until now is undoubtedly due to his improvements on defense. Last year he was a liability on defense, most notably in the Ram’s NCAA tournament loss.  Unfortunately Brooks suffered a knee injury and did not play in the second half. His status for Friday’s game against St. Louis in doubtful.

With Brooks’ first half production, VCU looked like they were in control of the game against Duquesne when the Rams led by 14 at half. The Dukes did not succumb to VCU’s pressure in the second half as they outscored the Rams by eight points. With about 2:30 to play the Dukes put themselves within two points from tying the then 17th ranked Rams. VCU was able to hit some shots to create a little separation but the lead was never significant due to poor free throw shooting from the Rams. That is an issue that will surely cost VCU later on in the season.

Last week was a wakeup call to the AP’s 16th best team in the country. Treveon Graham is a huge part of what separates VCU from average Division 1 teams. There is no doubt that VCU possesses loads of talent but right now they are not ready to step into this aggressive Havoc system and contribute at a high. VCU is 15-3 and 5-0 in the A-10. The Rams are ranked 16th in the AP Top 25 poll. How much further can they climb in the polls? The answer is simple, the Rams will go however far Treveon Graham takes them. That’s not to say other players are not vital to VCU’s success. The Rams have nine players who average over 10 minutes per game. VCU needs everyone to produce but they rely on their star senior, Treveon Graham to handle of most of the heavy lifting.

VCU Defeats Davidson 71-65

The VCU Rams (12-3, 2-0) defeated the Davidson Wildcats (10-3, 1-1) in their first of two matchups this season 71-65 and handed the Wildcats their first loss ever in the Atlantic 10 conference. In the process, the Rams extended their winning streak to seven games and remain undefeated in the A-10 earning their second win in the conference. VCU senior, Treveon Graham, led the Rams in scoring and rebounds posting a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

VCU did not shoot the ball particularly well from the floor shooting 42%, but they were able to spread the scoring distribution amongst multiple players as their depth proved to be a clear advantage throughout. The Rams bench outscored the Wildcats bench 29-16 and nine players scored for the Rams. New York City natives, Melvin Johnson and Terry Larrier, both contributed 11 points for the Rams.

VCU’s defense held the nation’s third best scoring team to 20 points under their season average and also made Davidson’s leading scorer, Jack Gibbs, a non-factor. Gibbs was not able to establish any sort of rhythm offensively on the court shooting 1-10 from the field. Gibbs was held without a field goal in the first 35 minutes of the game. Gibbs was able to cash in from the free throw line making all eight of his free throws and finished with 11 points in the game. VCU point guard, Briante Weber, pointed out that Jack Gibbs is an amazing player, but they made it a point of emphasis to take him out the game.

“All we could hear the coaches talking about was he just had 32 points on Richmond, he’s an excellent player,” VCU Senior Briante Weber said. “I’m pretty sure the team and I definitely got fed up hearing Jack Gibbs. They have a three-headed monster with those three guards (Jack Gibbs, Tyler Kalinowski, and Brian Sullivan). We would key on him, because he is the head of the snake. You take him out, we can contain the other two.”

Davidson only made 37% of their field goals, which is well below their average from the field as they have shot 48% from the field this season. Davidson also shot below their average from three-point range shooting 36% from three-point land. VCU’s trademarked havoc-style defense was able to force Davidson to turn the ball over 15 times. Davidson’s lack of depth showed throughout the game as their three-headed monster scored 46 of the teams 65 points. Sullivan and Kalinowski each played 38 minutes and Tyler Kalinoski played the entire game before fouling out with eight seconds left in the game. Sullivan led the team in scoring with 19 points and Kalinoski also contributed with 16 points for the Wildcats.

We struggled more to run our half-court offense than we did in any other part of the season and we’ve played against some pretty darn good defensive teams” Davidson coach, Bob McKillop said. “That’s a credit to Shaka and his team that they’re not just a pressing team, but they continue their defense into the half-court.”

“I think that we have a lot of guys that can come in and help us if they are in the right frame of mind,” Smart said. “You got to have a clear head for helping your team win and playing for one another. The reality is I think that all the guys on the bench would love to be starters, but that might not be their role. If they accept that and we all have a clear head for helping our team win, than we can continue getting better be a very good team. That’s a daily process and that’s a choice that our guys have to continue to make.”

Briante Weber had four steals for the Rams and is now tied with Cookie Belcher for fourth place on the NCAA all-time career steals with 353 steals. Weber needs 33 more steals to break NCAA all-time steals record.

The Rams will have the opportunity to sweep the Wildcats win the regular season when they play again on March 5 at Davidson.

The Rams return to action on Saturday at 2:00 against the reigning A-10 champions, the Saint Joseph’s Hawks (6-7, 0-2) on WVCW.ORG. The Rams lost to the Hawks twice last season as the Hawks won in Philadelphia and in the finals of the A-10 Basketball Tournament in March. The Rams will look to exact revenge against the Hawks in their only regular season matchup to extend their winning streak to eight games.

Bowden’s (non-conference) Breakdown

Malik Bowden’s Men’s Basketball Blog

As we say goodbye to one year, and bring in another one we also say farewell to the strongest out of conference schedule VCU has played under Coach Smart’s tenure. VCU’s strength of schedule as of January 4th was ranked eighth in the country, and second among mid majors. Going into the season the Rams schedule was headlined by a neutral site game against Villanova, and a home rematch against Virginia. Along the way VCU faced some stiff competition, Toledo in their home opener, a double overtime thriller against Northern Iowa, and a closer than expected win over Illinois State.

The low point of the OOC schedule was the close lost to in state rival Old Dominion. The Rams met expectations in terms of wins, and growth. They finished non-conference play with a record of 10-3, and two of the losses for sure (Villanova, and UVA) won’t be frowned upon by the NCAA selection committee come March.

VCU also was able to get four of the five freshmen into the rotation at different times for them to be able to make mistakes, learn, and mature for when they’ll be called upon later on in the season. Freshman Terry Larrier saw the most playing time among the freshmen and showed glimpses of the prolific scorer he could become. Jonathan Williams struggled in the beginning of the season but has recently picked up his play and is learning from veteran guards Briante Weber, and Jequan Lewis. Justin Tillman appears to have become comfortable with his role quicker than all the freshmen. Every minute Tillman’s on the floor he brings energy to the game. He’s shown the ability to attack the glass on both ends of the floor, and does a tremendous job at running the lanes on fast breaks which has, and will continue to result in highlight fast break dunks. Michael Gilmore is also becoming accustomed to being a high energy guy at all times. Unfortunately redshirt freshmen Antravious Simmons felt it was best for him to transfer out and play closer to home at Florida Gulf Coast.

  As far as the returning players are concerned Briante, and Jequan have shown improved point guard play. Melvin Johnson has been shooting lights out, and is better at making plays off the bounce. Jordan Burgess has been injury free so far, and is providing VCU with an added outside threat, and on ball defender. Mo is becoming a better rim protector by the game, and VCU should look to him more during conference play as a low post threat. Doug Brooks is becoming comfortable with his increase in minutes this year from his freshmen season. Jarred Guest is bringing senior leadership, and has been a model for what Michael Gilmore, and Justin Tillman can become. Another bright spot is that Torrey Burston was able to score his first points as a VCU ram against Belmont during the holiday break. 

VCU is more than prepared to compete in the A-10, and win a conference championship. They’ll have to go through Dayton, George Washington, Davidson, and Rhode Island who all have competitive teams and on any night can beat VCU. For the Rams to succeed they’ll need to make sure they  defend without fouling excessively, rebound on both ends of the floor, and find some type of low post presence when their outside shot isn’t falling. If VCU can do these things Ram Nation should expect an Automatic NCAA berth, and their first Atlantic 10 conference tournament championship.

Bowden’s Breakdown

Malik Bowden’s Men’s Basketball Blog

In the past week, Ram Nation saw their team go 1-1 with a nail biting win over Illinois State, and another loss to a ranked opponent in the Virginia Cavaliers.

In the first game of the week, the Rams went on the road in the second year of their home-and-home series with the Illinois State Red Birds of the Missouri Valley Conference.  Initially the game appeared to be a game where the Rams were flat, like the ODU game. The Rams found themselves facing a 16 point deficit early in the game. The slow start could be attributed to Shaka not starting senior guard Briante Weber for reasons undisclosed reasons. At halftime the Rams cut Illinois State’s lead to two points, and would continue to enforce their style of play throughout the second half. When Melvin Johnson began to cool down in the second half, senior wing Treveon Graham picked up the scoring with some crucial buckets when attacking the Red Birds 2-3 zone. The Rams forced over 20 turnovers, and made it difficult at times for Illinois State to even bring the ball up before being called for a 10-second violation. VCU was able to use their mixture of experience and talent to overwhelm Illinois State, and come out with the victory 66-62.  Melvin finished with 19 points, Treveon finished with 17 points, and Jordan Burgess finished with 10 points. After this game, myself and Ram Nation felt confident in VCU going into Saturday’s game against UVA which would have a lot riding on this game based off of last year’s thriller.

Prior to tip off, Saturday’s game had all the hype that was expected. SHAKAVILLE was present outside the stadium as fans waited for the opportunity to get the best seats for a game that had ticket sold out weeks before the season had even begun. When you walked into the arena white shirts were placed on every seat as the fans successfully pulled off a white out in the Siegel Center. As the game started, VCU scored on their first few possessions with UVA matching them with their future NBA wing player, Justin Anderson. UVA then went on to take a 10-point halftime lead. The second half started off the same way with the Cavaliers keeping a minimum eight point lead on the Rams. The Rams were down 13, Treveon Graham scored nine straight points on three consecutive three-pointers, which cut the UVA lead to nine. UVA called a time out to stop the bleeding as it appeared the Rams had momentum, and the Stu was filled with the chant of the VCU War Song. After the timeout, UVA answered VCU’s run with their own 15-0 run which put the game out of reach, and lead to UVA closing out the game 74-57. It was a well-played game by both teams. Hopefully, the Rams don’t dread on this loss as they face the 23rd ranked University of Northern Iowa this Saturday in Richmond.

Bowden’s Breakdown

Malik Bowden’s Men’s Basketball Blog

VCU has finally begun their 2014-2015 basketball season. As of December 1st, the Rams are 4-2 with a competitive home win over Toledo, two blowout wins over Tennessee, and Maryland-Eastern Shore, and a 3rd place win in the Progressive Legends Classic over Oregon. Their losses are at the hands national powerhouse Villanova, and most recently a painful loss to longtime rival Old Dominion University. I expect to see VCU drop in the polls. Because the Rams already has the mid-major label, with two early losses (one reasonable loss, and one unacceptable loss) and the Associated Press prefers to give the top 25 spots to high major teams.

Regardless of the ranking the Rams can’t dread about last week’s performance and prepare for one of their biggest games of the year. On Tuesday, December 2 the Rams will travel to Illinois State, a team they defeated by 38 points last year in the Siegel Center. Illinois St. should be taken seriously just like the other non-conference opponents VCU will face this year. They’re currently 3-2 on the year, return three of their top five scorers and defeated ODU by 19 points at home.

The Rams can’t afford to look past the Redbirds in anticipation of what appears to be the Virginia college state championship game between VCU, and number seven ranked Virginia Cavilers. When the Rams take on the Cavs this Saturday in the “Stu” any true basketball fan that resides in the Commonwealth will want to tune in. Last year, VCU went to Charlottesville and defeated a UVA team that won the ACC conference regular season title, the ACC Conference Tournament, and made it to the Sweet 16. UVA also returns three of their top five scorers, and still excel in their half court, possession by possession style. These two Virginia teams play styles that are found on two different ends of the spectrum. In order for VCU to beat the Cavs they’ll need to make sure they dictate the tempo of the game. Although it’s easier said than done, the Rams need to make UVA run their offense at a much faster, and frantic pace. Naturally, UVA uses almost the entire shot clock when they have the ball. This means VCU must defend aggressively without fouling too much, and take some calculated risks, and go for steals which could lead to some rushed decisions by the UVA guards or bad shots that lead to long rebounds, and fast break run outs for VCU.

On the offensive end, if the rams can’t find Melvin Johnson or Jordan Burgess spotting up for three, and Briante doesn’t have a straight line to the basket, they need to make sure the offense starts, and ends with Treveon “ the Freight Train” Graham. No matter what the stats say the rams need him to be the leading scorer every game unless it’s a blowout or if another player is just unconscious from the field. He’s the best on the team right now at creating his own shot, and has the most experience on the team. If the Rams make sure those things occur they have a very strong chance of winning against Illinois St., and UVA, and climbing back up the rankings.