Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Women’s basketball picked up where they left off from last season Tuesday afternoon after their defense was ranked among the best in the country a year ago.
In the season-opening win over Appalachian State 66-38, the Rams’ defense stood tall in the first quarter. The Mountaineers went on a 7-0 run to open the game, forcing coach Beth O’Boyle to call a timeout.
“We just needed to settle and just keep things simple and that we were going to play hard for 40 minutes, it was going to be a long game,” O’Boyle said.
After the break, it was all VCU, and the Rams never looked back. VCU went on a 35-2 run to close out the half, and the defense was the reason why.
Over about 5 1/2 minutes of the run, the defense forced six turnovers and held Appalachian State without a field goal for the entire second quarter. The Rams only allowed 2 points in the second quarter, a program-best.
“We want that to be our calling card,” O’Boyle said on the team’s defense. “If you come to VCU, you play for VCU, you wear that uniform: You’re going to defend.”
The Rams held the Mountaineers to shooting 28.6% from the field, including 11% from three in the game.
O’Boyle said the Rams’ defense is player driven and they take ownership in it.
“Our players love looking up at that scoreboard and saying, ‘How many points can we hold them to, what’s their field goal percentage?’ They buy in — it’s their identity,” O’Boyle said. “When you play that hard, you defend that hard, I think it puts you in a good position.”
Senior center Danielle Hammond was one of the biggest defensive presences for the Rams in the win, logging five blocks.
“I think before we went into the game, we really wanted to focus on our defense to make sure we kept up our defensive intensity from last year,” Hammond said. “So, I was just trying to do the best I could for my team.”
The Rams also logged eight steals in the contest, as they forced 18 Mountaineer turnovers. VCU took advantage of the Appalachian State errors, scoring 14 points off them.
On the offensive end, the Rams used the paint to their advantage logging 32 points. O’Boyle said the goal was to get junior center Sofya Pashigoreva or Hammond a touch on each possession.
“They’re very difficult to defend, they’ve got to send multiple defenders to be able to stop them or they’re going to score themselves,” O’Boyle said. “That movement of getting the ball into the paint is going to really dictate the success of our offense.”
Redshirt-sophomore guard Madison Hattix-Covington led the Rams with a career-high 19 points and seven rebounds. The Killeen, Texas, native went 3-for-5 from beyond the arc in the contest.
Hattix-Covington said she worked on 3-point shooting over the summer, helping her improve. She said her 3-point confidence level has risen from her summer work as well.
The Rams were without preseason A-10 first-team selection junior guard Tera Reed and A-10 second-team selection junior guard Taya Robinson in the contest due to injuries. O’Boyle credited not making excuses for the Rams’ performance in the season opener.
“I mean obviously we have some injuries right now that makes us a little different than what we’ve looked in the past,” O’Boyle said. “But we’ve never been a team or a program that makes excuses. We’ve always said that every day we get better.”
The Rams outscored the Mountaineers in bench points 22-6 in the contest. Hammond led the bench in scoring while sophomore forward Kseniya Malashka recorded 9 points off the bench.
The Rams will travel to play Seton Hall on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.