VCU basketball defeated the Prairie View A&M Panthers 75-50 Friday night in what was the 67th consecutive sellout at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
VCU opened the game with a 5-0 lead. The first points came with a layup from junior forward Mo Alie–Cox, then a 3-pointer from senior guard Melvin Johnson.
“I was proud of the guys for how we played in the first half,” said head coach Will Wade. “I thought we played pretty well in the first half. Second half, not nearly to our standard, not nearly well enough. Give Prairie View credit, they played extremely hard.”
The Rams in the first half outscored the Panthers 46-22, including an early 13-5 lead and then later with four and a half minutes remaining, two free throws from Johnson put the Rams up 34-15.
“We won,” Johnson said. “That’s all that matters at this point, 1-0. We’ll regroup and get ready for Monday.”
In the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Rams continued their offensive bash over the Panthers by increasing the lead to 59-33 after layups from sophomore forward Justin Tillman and junior guard Jordan Burgess.
Everything seemed to be going VCU’s way, but a little over five minutes following that advantage, the Panthers went on a 13-1 run, giving the Rams a bit of a scare and cutting the deficit to 60-46. Prairie View’s senior forward Karim York made the layup for the Panthers to reach the deficit. It was as close as the Panthers would come.
“We were better in the first half,” Wade said. “I took the press off in the second half. When I did that it took away some aggression, it took away some of what made us good in the first half, but it was a better defensive effort. Even though we won on the glass, I didn’t think we were as good as we could have been on the glass either, so we gave up way too many second chance points.”
The Rams closed out the game by outscoring the Panthers 15-4 to finish the game with a 75-50 victory.
“We did a nice job on our offensive glass,” Wade said. “Of course we missed a lot of threes, so that allows you to get some offensive rebounds.”
The Rams as a team were 7-23, shooting 30 percent from 3-point-range. The Rams shot a little over 42 percent overall as a team and were 12-18 in free throws, a great improvement in that department.
“We did a nice job on our offensive glass, but we didn’t do a good enough job blocking them out,” Wade said. “We had, I think five or six really good defensive possessions, we just didn’t finish it with rebounds.”
Johnson led the starters in scoring with 13 points, and junior guard Doug Brooks came off the bench and also added 13 points for the Rams. Tillman managed an additional 10 points for the Rams.
“My goal is just to help the team out in any way possible,” Tillman said. “Offensively or defensively.”
With the win, the Rams begin their season with a record of 1-0. They are one of eight teams in the Atlantic 10 to begin their season with a win. Their next game will be at home in the Siegel Center on Monday night against Radford University, which will be the second game of the 2k Classic.
“It’s good,” Wade said. “Right on to the next one, but Radford’s going to be better than them. So we have to be better than we were tonight and obviously next Friday will be a pretty tough challenge.”
On Nov. 20, the Rams will face off against Duke University, the defending national champions at Madison Square Garden.
“We’ve got to focus on ourselves,” Wade said. “Get better and I’ve got to coach our team well and coach our team better.”
Peter Mason, Contributing Writer