Liberty let down: Rams get early gut-check in charity exhibition

Photo by Ali Jones.

Despite five VCU players scoring in double figures, Black and Gold fans left last Thursday’s charity exhibition for hurricane relief against Liberty University dumbstruck after watching the Rams fall to the Flames in the vaunted Siegel Center by a final of 85-69.

Photo by Ali Jones


Liberty took its first lead of the game with 13 minutes remaining in the first half and never looked back. LU junior forward Ezra Talbert led all scorers with 23 points on 5-5 shooting from beyond the arc. The Flames shot 50 percent (11-22) from outside as a team. VCU’s 24 fouls allowed their opposition to spend ample time at the charity stripe, where Liberty knocked down 24 of 28 free throws.   


VCU coach Mike Rhoades said the loss will serve as a wake up call.


“This was a good dress rehearsal for a lot of reasons,” Rhoades said. “Sometimes you need to get a slap in the face to realize where you’re at and where you need to go. This was exactly what we needed. I told the guys our record is still 0-0, but we’ve got a lot of work to do, particularly on the defensive end.”


Scoring distribution was a bright spot for the Rams in an otherwise disheartening performance.


Sophomore starting shooting guard Malik Crowfield led the Black and Gold in scoring with 14, followed closely by starting senior and sophomore forwards Justin Tillman (12) and De’Riante Jenkins (12). Starting senior point guard Jonathan Williams chipped in 11 points and five assists.  


Sophomore forward Issac Vann poured in 13 off the bench and showed off his diverse playmaking ability with an array of outside shots and penetrating drives. Vann, who was allotted significant time on the ball to facilitate his creativity, also committed seven turnovers in a polarizing showing.

Photo by Erin edgerton


Williams and Crowfield led the Black and Gold in minutes with 32 and 33, respectively. The starting guard duo figures to maintain a high playing time threshold in what is a thin backcourt rotation for Rhoades to work with.


“You’ve gotta hold everybody accountable [for the loss],” Crowfield said. “We need to make sure we have more discipline. You can’t just show up when the lights come on.”  


“[Coach] told us it doesn’t count, but it’s a wake up call,” Williams said. “You get away with certain things in practice that show up in a game. We’ve just gotta get everybody to buy in…it felt the same as last year. We’re gonna be fine, we’ll bounce back.”


Williams is referring to the Rams’ preseason exhibition home loss a year ago at the hands of Division II Queens College, an even more jarring result, but a comparable gut-check for a VCU side looking to mature as fast as possible.


“The biggest thing we’ve gotta do is gain experience quickly because of our schedule,” Rhoades said. “This helped tonight. Now look, we’re at VCU, we hate the result. I hope it bothers our guys…it bothers me. I think that’s when you grow the most though, when things don’t go your way. You’ve gotta accept the challenge.”

Photo by Ali Jones


The final scoreline marred an otherwise positive evening at the Siegel Center. Liberty and VCU activated an NCAA waiver to put on the event, from which net proceeds will go toward a charity of each school’s choosing. The Rams selected One America Appeal, a charity founded to support relief efforts in the wake of hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria.       


“It was great that the NCAA made this decision [to play the game] because it’s benefiting a lot of people that need it,” Rhoades said. “I’m glad everyone came out because they supported something pretty awesome.”

Zach Joachim

Sports Editor

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