Rams Bounce back after suffering Meek Mill L’s   

Photo by: Pilar Curtis

VCU returned back to the floor after a tough loss to George Washington University, by taking on the University of Massachusetts and Saint Louis University.

UMASS

On Feb. 11 the Rams traveled to Massachusetts to face the 9-12 Minutemen. The game began with high energy, a usual sign of success for VCU, but the team struggled to get into a rhythm. VCU had issues throughout the first half on both the offensive and defensive ends. UMass came out firing from downtown, connecting on all seven of its 3-point attempts and forcing 11 VCU turnovers in the first half.

VCU scoring leader Melvin Johnson couldn’t get it going early on and went into the locker room with just three points to his name. Despite the team struggles, guard JeQuan Lewis was effective offensively, racking up eight points and four assists as the team trailed by 11, 32-43 at the start of the second half.

The lead got as high as 15, but VCU was able to fight back with a late a 13-2 run powered by a great defensive effort, cutting the lead to two with 1:07 left in regulation. Despite the furious rally, UMass was able put the game away with clutch free-throw shooting in the final minute, handing VCU their seventh loss of the year.  Perimeter shooting ended up being the tell-all in this game, as VCU only made 5-20, while UMass put in 10-17. Junior Mo Alie-Cox contributed 10 points and four rebounds, while Lewis and senior guard Korey Billbury both dropped off 15 points.

    Saint Louis

Bounce back
Photo by: Pilar Curtis

Following Meek Mill losses, the Rams returned back to Richmond on Feb. 13 to take on Saint Louis, in what was a treat for the home fans; VCU jumped on the board early, with Lewis hitting back-to-back 3-point field goals to open the game. VCU, with its stifling defense and fast pace offense, jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first four minutes.

The defense was all over the floor, causing turnovers and bad shot attempts for the Bilikens. Although the team played wellat the start, at about the 10 minute mark the Rams went on a three-minute scoring drought that kept St. Louis in the game as it got deeper in the first half.

With around three minutes left in the first half, VCU caught fire from long range, putting on a shooting clinic led by Billburry. He went into the locker room with four 3-pointers, while Johnson and Lewis both had two each. The Rams ended the half hot with a 20-point leadand a score of 44-24.

The second half began the same way as the Rams continued their dominance at both ends. In the first few possessions their defense forced back-to-back shot-clock violations, with one being capped with a monstrous block from Alie-Cox. With 10 minutes remaining, the Rams had lead ballooned by 28. The game ended with VCU winning 85-52. Sophomore forward Justin Tillman had a big second half, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Billbury finished with a game high of 20 points.

Head Coach Will Wade was proud of the way that his team bounced back after taking two straight losses.

“I’m happy that we’re back on the right track,”said Wade. “The two games that we lost are completely on me, and it’s squarely on my shoulders. Tonight we came out much sharper, and had great defensive energy for both halves.”

This win for the Rams had a few different guys showcasing what was one of their better individual nights of the season.  Leading scorer for the night Billbury also thought that the team’s dominance was due to their defensive pressure.

“Even though we played great offense, it was the defense that got us this win,” said Billbury. “We really focused, we all worked together and this is what we got. At first we were just winning, like blindly winning, now we know what we have to do out there. Thank god we won, but those losses really helped us.”

Tillman felt that the team’s overall intensity opened the door for easier looks offensively, especially for him.

“The trainers got me right, and things just started opening up for me,’ said Tillman. “We just stayed aggressive all game.”

   VCU will take the floor again for the home fans on Feb. 16 against Rhode Island University.

Marcus BlackwellContributing Writer  

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