Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Before player introductions at Saturday night’s Black and Gold game, coach Mike Rhoades emerged from the smoke with a new tradition: the floor burn.
During the pregame speech — with the help of a couple graduate assistants — he demonstrated what fans should do each time a Ram dives to the court for a loose ball. The goal is to make the raucous Siegel Center crowd cheer as if a basket were made.
The idea was inspired by “Floor Burns,” written by Stanford coach Jerod Haase.
“He just tried to play harder than everybody else and beat everybody to the floor,” Rhoades said. “It always stuck with me and I always had it in my mind.”
The crowd responded to Rhoades’ new instructions and tried out the tradition when freshman forward Jarren McAllister dove for a loose ball midway through the first half.
“The way these guys have been flying around, we’ve got that army mentality of playing really hard,” Rhoades said. “I want our fans to be involved in it and be looking for it as well as appreciate our guys’ effort.”
Rhoades wants fans to keep the energy up each night, so the players can feed off of it.
“I think it’s one of those cumulative effects, the more you do it and the more you feel the praise and the energy, you keep doing it,” Rhoades said. “I want to tire out the fans as much as we tire ourselves out.”
VCU’s Havoc defense is notorious for forcing turnovers and loose balls, so the new move will be used often each night in the Siegel Center.
The Rams’ defense was on full display Saturday night, as the two teams — the Black and the Gold — combined for 26 forced turnovers, including 14 steals.
“A night like this, you get mad when you turn it over, and then you’re like ‘Great job on the defense,’” Rhoades said. “I wanted to get these guys really tired and fatigued and see how disciplined they would be on both sides of the ball. The guys did a good job — even the young guys — fighting through it.”
The Rams have set a high bar on the defensive side of the ball; last season, they were ranked in the top 10 in the country in total defense, according to KenPom.