The road to March begins with Black and Gold scrimmage

Alonzo Small
Sports Editor

The usual elements of a VCU men’s basketball game were there:

VCU’s men’s basketball head coach Shaka Smart pacing back and forth on the sidelines, the Rowdy Rams section flooded with roaring fans, the presence of the VCU Gold Rush dancers and the VCU cheerleading squad, the VCU Peppas continuously providing the game’s soundtrack, and most importantly, the 2014-15 men’s basketball roster. HAVOC was on full display at the Siegel Center on Sunday, Oct. 26. And so the journey to March begins.

Both teams huddle with their respective players during a timeout at the VCU Black and Gold game. The Gold team won the scrimmage 73-63 on Sunday, Oct. 26. Photo by Pilar Curtis

VCU took part in the Black and Gold scrimmage, which divided their 14-man basketball roster into two teams of seven. It would be the first time since last March that the Rams took the court to play a home game. Smart started things off by introducing the teams of seven to a thunderous ovation.

His newest inspirational signee topped that. Smart introduced 17-year-old Morgan Vega, who is currently battling cerebral palsy and recently signed with the basketball club as a result of a partnership with Team IMPACT. Vega was greeted by his teammates and then it was time to play some basketball.

Ironically, the game would start with two opportunities to respond to one of the biggest questions the team has faced all off-season: free throws.

Sophomore guard JeQuan Lewis would score the game’s first point, splitting two shots from the charity stripe. From then on, the scrimmage was the type of game you would expect from the Rams, fast-paced action on both sides of the floor, stifling defense and mid-to-long-range shooting galore. After the first half of play, the Black team topped the Gold by one score, 36-35.

In the game’s opening minute of the second half, sophomore Lewis collided with a teammate, offering a minor scare to the VCU faithful. Lewis would come back in the game minutes later. It was a sigh of relief for the fans in attendance who were often tested in the final 15 minutes of play.

Even in a scrimmage game, Lewis was playing above and beyond, trying to make opportunities on the floor even at the expense of his body. That’s why the Dickson, Tennessee native is poised to deliver for the Rams in a big way this season at the guard position.

Senior guard Briante Weber, who received praise as one of the Atlantic 10’s best players this off-season, commanded the floor, looking every bit as comfortable as Smart had suggested he would with a year under his belt at the point guard position.

Senior Jarred Guest had his moments in the second half with his protection of the post as well as his ability to turn offensive rebounds into points. The 6-foot-8 big man nicknamed “the Sherriff” finished with 10 points in 25 minutes of play, and provided  some highlight-reel dunks for added measure. Guest and redshirt sophomore Mo Alie-Cox, who recorded five points and eight rebounds, will undoubtedly look to create front-court problems for defenders all season.

Senior forward Treveon Graham scored 14 points in 24 minutes of play. The leading scorer of the men’s basketball team last season, Graham went three for three from behind the arc.

The standout of the game was by far junior guard Melvin Johnson who used the scrimmage to show fans he’s healthy after knee injuries plagued him last season. Johnson showed in two 15-minute halves that the hard work he put in this off-season at the Franklin Street Gym has paid dividends. He opened the game with a three-point floater from behind the arc. The shot was a variation of what he deems “the Melvin.” He was the leading scorer of the game, knocking down 15 points in the first half and finishing with 26 points total.

The game provided the first glimpse at the highly touted freshmen class. Terry Larrier finished with eight points and Jonathan Williams added three more for the Black team. Michael Gilmore led all freshmen in points scoring 10 total, while Justin Tillman registered six points for the Gold.

As a collective unit, the Rams would go on to make more than 70 percent of their free throw opportunities from the line. VCU doesn’t hesitate to take the threepoint shot and this game was no different. Both teams shot over 40 percent.

The final score of the game saw the Gold team win 73-63.

In the end, Smart said he was pleased with the team’s effort, adding that although he felt the team tired a bit, that was to be expected with a seven-man rotation on both sides.

“It’s  a step in the right direction,” Smart said.

Now the Rams look toward a final tune up game. Smart’s team will host an exhibition showdown with his old stomping grounds, California University of Pennsylvania at the Siegel Center on Friday, Nov. 7.

After that, the official start of the season begins with a Nov. 14 matchup against University of Tennessee. And so the journey to March officially begins.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply