Men’s basketball weekend review

Winning one out of three games at the Charleston Classic may not be the way head coach Shaka Smart drew it up, but the one win was important.

Jim Swing
Sports Editor
Commonwealth Times’ Sports Twitter

Winning one out of three games at the Charleston Classic may not be the way head coach Shaka Smart drew it up, but the one win was important.
VCU's youth certainly showed during the Charleston Classic where the Rams dropped two out their three games.

Seton Hall 69, VCU 54

Flat-footed: VCU came out looking completely flat against Seton Hall. The usual energy and will to win just didn’t seem present whatsoever. Shaka Smart places a strong emphasis on doing all the “little things,” and the Rams just didn’t get it done.

Reddic struggles: Juvonte Reddic wasn’t the presence that he needed to be in the paint against Seton Hall. The sophomore forward finished with just three points and fouled out in the second half.

Pope domination: Seton Hall senior forward Herb Pope laid down a Frank Hassell-type performance on VCU Friday night. The 6-foot-8-inch, 236-pound bruiser had his way in the paint, recording a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds. With Reddic in foul trouble and D.J. Haley unable to produce any type of physical presence, the Rams had no answer for Pope.

Fine starting five: Seton Hall’s starting five was so sharp Friday night, the Pirates’ bench didn’t even need to produce so much as a point. Pope, Jordan Theodore and Fuquan Edwin combined for 58 of Seton Hall’s 69 points. And it didn’t help that on the other end of the court, VCU’s starting five shot 3-of-11 from the floor.

Georgia Tech 73, VCU 60

Solid first half: VCU came out firing on all cylinders in the first half against Georgia Tech. The full-court press confused the Yellow Jackets and helped force 13 turnovers in the first half, which assisted in setting up a well-balanced offense. The Rams did a great job of drawing defenders into the lane and dishing the ball outside for five three-pointers in the first half of play. VCU produced a 21-3 run in the first half on solid passing and sharp shooting before going into the break with a 31-23 lead.

Horrid second half: The second half completely flipped the storyline. After shooting 11-of-28 in the first half, Georgia Tech came out on fire and hit 19-of-31 shots from the floor. VCU didn’t bring the same energy out of the break and made too many little mistakes that enabled the Yellow Jackets to outscore the Rams 50-29 in the second half. With VCU’s defense constantly getting caught up in the double-team, Georgia Tech was continuously able to find open looks from all areas of the floor. In his first appearance of the season, Yellow Jackets returning leading scorer Glen Rice Jr. came alive in the second half, scoring 11 of his 15 points to go with seven rebounds and three assists.

Shots not falling: For the second straight night, there seemed to be a lid on the basket for VCU in the majority of the game. Easy layups and put-backs just wouldn’t seem to fall for on another poor shooting night in which the Rams shot 18-for-56 (32.1 percent). Finding quality shots has been a tough task so far this season for a VCU offense that hasn’t been able to completely get going.

VCU 69, Western Kentucky 64

Shaka shakes up starting lineup: On an odd occurrence Sunday, Shaka Smart shook up the starting lineup by throwing in Heath Houston, Rob Brandenberg and Briante Weber, replacing D.J. Haley, Juvonte Reddic and Troy Daniels in the regular lineup. Whether Smart was simply looking to shake things up or trying to send a message to Haley, Reddic and Daniels remains to be seen, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Brandenberg busts out: Sophomore Rob Brandenberg recorded 18 points, two steals and three rebounds against the Hilltoppers. He’s been the spark plug that gets VCU’s offense going so far this year, and he did it again Sunday. Brandenberg’s ability to take the ball to the basket, peppered in with a strong outside shooting performance, was the difference in the Rams’ win.

Must win: No team wants to leave a three-game tournament without a win, and that was especially evident for VCU Sunday. With an impending two-game road trip on the docket that includes a heavyweight bout with No. 16 Alabama, the Rams did not want to drop their third straight game.

Other notes

Weber on the rise: Freshman guard Briante Weber played in-your-face, lockdown defense with two steals and hit a couple of open shots when he needed to against Seton Hall. He was the team’s second-leading scorer with nine points in 21 minutes. Then he stepped up again the next night with six points and three steals against Georgia Tech. First impression in his initial three games says Weber might be the most energetic guy we’ve seen at VCU in recent memory. He’s insanely quick on his feet and has quick hands that enable him to knock the ball away from the offense. While he’s been one of the most impressive freshmen so far, Weber has also shown his age. There have been many different occasions when he’s been too aggressive with his hands and picked up quick fouls, which resulted in Smart taking him out of the game almost immediately. All in all, Weber has shown that he fits perfectly into VCU’s Havoc style of play.

Burgess gets back into groove: After shooting a combined 4-for-22 in his first two games, Bradford Burgess finally broke out against Georgia Tech, going 4-for-10 from the floor with 17 points, including three three-pointers. The difference between VCU’s first two games and the game against the Yellow Jackets was Burgess’ teammates being able to get him the ball. Burgess returned to form, knocking down open looks when he needed to and showing he’s not afraid to get physical in the lane by driving to the basket.

Theus threatens: In three games, Darius Theus has been nothing short of impressive. All the talk is about whether or not Theus can replace Joey Rodriguez, and as of now he’s done a great job. Three games in, Theus has 22 points, 13 assists and six steals. He’s been lethal at getting to the basket and capitalizing, and although his points may not be stacked at the end of the game, he’s done a great job of handling the ball and dishing it out to his teammates. If Theus can limit the turnovers (10), he will be on his way to being a legitimate leader for VCU.

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