Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
In the men’s basketball preseason finale Saturday night, the Rams defeated Virginia State 90-53 at the Siegel Center in front of a crowd of more than 5,000 fans.
Here are the top observations from the evening:
Sophomore guard KeShawn Curry was the star of the show for the Rams, logging 14 points off the bench.
“He had an awesome offseason and he didn’t catch feelings,” coach Mike Rhoades said. “He just kept working and getting better.”
Rhoades said guarding veterans such as redshirt-senior forward Issac Vann and redshirt-senior guard Marcus Evans in practice is what’s helped Curry improve.
Curry shot 3-for-3 from beyond the arc against Virginia State, the only Ram to be perfect from three.
“I needed to shoot the ball better. I worked hard at shooting the ball better with coach JD, coach Brunt and those guys,” Curry said of his offseason training.
Last season, Curry appeared in 15 of the Rams’ 33 games, averaging 2.1 points.
Havoc was back on display at the Siegel Center, limiting the Trojans to 19 first-half points.
“I thought we had a lot of guys flying around, great activity on the ball,” Rhoades said. “We can play so hard because we can play a lot of guys.”
The Rams forced 24 turnovers and scored 27 points off the Virginia State errors. VCU trapped more in the contest, making it harder for the Trojans to move the ball on the court.
“We want to make it so hard to get the ball up the court and then even harder to find a way to score,” Rhoades said. “We’ve got to live by that, that’s who we are.”
Rhoades said the Rams were able to press more because of the deep second team this season, similar to past teams at VCU.
The Rams defense held Virginia State to shooting 18% in the first half and 34% from the field on the night. VCU also logged 10 steals, led by sophomore forward Vince Williams’ four.
Play in the paint
The Rams missed 35 shots in the contest, but the black and gold grabbed 13 offensive boards.
“The past couple weeks, Coach has been on us about rebounding,” junior forward Corey Douglas said. “That’s been a big topic that we’ve been discussing, especially in practice.”
VCU logged 47 rebounds on the night, and Rhoades said that has been something the coaching staff has focused on.
“We want to rebound better,” Rhoades said. “We’re a good defensive team, I think last year at times we didn’t always finish plays. I think that’s been an emphasis all offseason, five guys rebounding.”
Another focus for Rhoades was keeping the ball after forcing turnovers or making a stop. He does not want the Rams to give away the ball after working for the turnover.
The Rams were picked to win the Atlantic 10 in the conference’s preseason poll, a year after being tabbed to finish seventh.
Last season’s motto for the Rams was to hunt, and this season’s no different even though they are favored to win it.
“It’s who we are,” Rhoades said. “We’re always going to hunt, we’re not the hunted. We’re going to hunt, we’re going to attack, we’re going to go after people. There’s no other way I know how to play or coach.”
Curry said the team still needs to win games, whether they’re picked seventh or first.
“We’re going to have that mindset of being picked seventh in the conference and we’re going to keep working to get better like we’re seventh in the conference,” Curry said.
The Rams know that no matter who they play on the road, the opposing team’s gym will be full because of the VCU’s recent notoriety.
“Every game is their Super Bowl, so that’s how we’re going to look at it going into the season,” senior guard Mike’l Simms said.