VCU men’s basketball came away with their first win of the 2014-15 season, against the University of Tennessee, 85-69. The game was played at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland where the Rams took part in the Inaugural Veterans Classic.
The Rams raced off to an early lead, as junior guard Melvin Johnson got off to a hot start shooting behind the arc. His 20 points in the first half enabled VCU to take a 48-30 first half lead. Johnson finished with 23 points overall.
Playing without starting point guard Briante Weber, who wasserving the final game of his suspension, the Rams were short at the point guard position. Midway through the first half, the position suffered another loss. A scary moment occured for VCU, when sophomore guard JeQuan Lewis fell hard after a scuffle for a rebound and was forced to leave the game with a concussion. His injury left VCU more vulnerable at the point guard position, causing freshman Johnny Williams and sophomore Torey Burston to carry the burden the rest of the way.
In the second half, Tennessee broke through and shortened the lead 67-59 with 7:39 left to play. Senior guard/forward Treveon Graham, who had a hard time finding is shot all night, broke through in the closing minutes and was able to seal the win with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
VCU shot 40 percent from the field and went 24-40 from the free throw line. The Rams forced 19 turnovers turning them into 26 points.
Freshman guard Terry Larrier scored 11 points, the most by a Ram in their collegiate debut in 10 years. The bench contributed as well, combining for 29 points total.
While the first game is an adjustment period for any college basketball team, the Rams responded by winning their ninth-straight season opener behind 10 different players who scored for the Rams.
The second game of the Inaugural Tournament was between Michigan State University and the Naval Academy. Head coach Shaka Smart was pleased at the decision for his team to compete against a Bowl Championship Series conference opponent. Smart is now 13-10 against BCS opponents.
“We are very appreciative to be part of an event that both honors the armed services and provides our student-athletes with a terrific learning experience,” Smart said.
VCU’s next game is Nov. 18 against the University of Toledo. The game will be the home opener for the Rams.