One season after finishing with an 11-19 record, the VCU women’s basketball team has opened the 2013-14 campaign in impressive fashion. With an 87-61 victory at Wagner College on Sunday, Dec. 1, the Lady Rams extended their winning streak to five games and improved their record to 6-1, which is their best start in five years.
Senior Robyn Parks, who entered Sunday’s contest ranked second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring, led the way for head coach Marlene Stollings against the Seahawks. The same afternoon Parks tallied her 1,000th career point, the senior notched a game-high 24 points and 15 rebounds.
The Lady Rams struggled slightly out of the gate, taking only a four-point lead into halftime, but used a 24-3 run in the opening stages of the second stanza to stifle the Seahawks in Staten Island, N.Y.
Freshman guard Isis Thorpe and sophomore forward Adaeze Alaeze added 13 points apiece, while freshman Ashlee Mitchell contributed 11 points of her own in her first career start. The victory against Wagner was VCU’s fourth consecutive double-digit road win.
Not every game was as simple as Sunday’s contest in New York. The Lady Rams survived a 74-63 overtime thriller against the University of Texas at Arlington on Sunday Nov. 24 just three days before their 23-point victory against the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Against UNCG, three VCU players scored more than 20 points. Freshmen guards Keira Robinson and Isis Thorpe both registered career-highs of 25 and 22 points respectively, while Parks contributed 24 points of her own. Parks also led the team with 8 rebounds and Mitchell recorded a team-high 6 assists.
The Lady Rams set the tone early with a 9-0 lead thanks to three turnovers and 4-6 shooting from the field. The offensive barrage continued as the team sparked an overwhelming run and extended its lead to 41-14. VCU’s lead reached as many as 27 in the first frame, but UNCG didn’t let up and trailed 50-26 at the half.
About midway through the second half, UNCG began to slowly chip away at VCU’s lead and went on a 15-6 run to pull within 16 at 70-54. Ultimately, VCU’s suffocating defense, which forced 22 turnovers in the game, prevailed and concluded the game at 95-72.
The Lady Rams shot a staggering 60 percent (38-63) from the field, including 58 percent (10-17) from behind the arc for the evening. The team also shot 75 percent (9-12) from the charity stripe, while the Lady Spartans managed just 41 percent (24-59) from the field and 19 percent (3-16) from three-point land.
VCU’s Nov. 24 game against Texas-Arlington was a bit closer. Parks led the pack with 19 points followed by Thorpe with 18 and Robinson with 17.
UTA jumped out to an early 15-6 lead, shooting 5-8 from the field, in addition to 2-2 from 3-point range within the first five minutes of play. But the Lady Rams countered with an 18-6 run, which included three straight buckets from Robinson to take their first lead of the game at 27-25.
The lead would change hands multiple times in the waning minutes of the opening stanza, but UTA eventually took a 33-30 lead into halftime.
With 9:28 remaining in the second half, the Lady Rams’ offense ignited for a 13-2 run, giving the team the lead at 57-53 with less than three minutes remaining in regulation. However, the Lady Mavericks responded again with two crucial baskets, which knotted the game at 57 apiece, and forced the game into overtime after a scoreless final minute of play.
In overtime, VCU kept UTA on its heels and scored the first five points of the extra period. The Lady Rams defense held firm for the duration of overtime and the Lady Rams outscored the Lady Mavericks 17-6. Stollings’ team forced a season-high 28 turnovers en route to a 74-63 road victory.
Much like the VCU men’s basketball team, Stollings’ club has relied on pressure defense to get the job done thus far. With the recent implementation of the Fury brand of basketball, the Lady Rams entered Sunday ranked first in the conference in both steals per game (12.2) and turnover margin (+7). VCU also ranked second in the A-10 in scoring offense at 80.8 points per game.
After solid showings against Texas-Pan American and Texas-Arlington, Parks and Robinson both received weekly A-10 distinctions. Parks was named Player of the Week on Nov. 25, while freshman Robinson was named Rookie of the Week the same day.
In addition to her second-leading scoring output, Parks leads the conference in rebounds per game (11.3). Robinson averaged 14 points, 5.5 assists, 3.5 steals and 2.5 rebounds per contest entering Sunday’s matchup against Wagner.
Up next for the Lady Rams is their seventh road match in their first eight games at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. VCU will will finally return home to the Siegel Center on Dec. 15 to take on Cleveland State University.