Ryan Grube, Staff Writer
For nearly the first six minutes of Sunday’s contest, Jacksonville State went without a point. The extended scoring drought was part of a 16-0 VCU run to open the game, which the Rams used, along with another 14-0 run, to put the Gamecocks away early.
VCU never trailed Sunday on its way to a commanding 93-65 win over Jacksonville State in the team’s campus game of the Emerald Coast Classic tournament, which will kickstart on Nov. 29 for the black and gold.
The Rams scored 24 points off 21 Gamecocks’ turnovers to continuously push their lead throughout the contest. Sunday marked the second consecutive game in which VCU crossed the 20-plus turnover threshold.
Sophomore forward Vince Williams said the team’s 21-turnover performance is part of their defense improving every day.
“We’re just setting the tone because we score off defense, really,” Williams said. “We just match the intensity every game, and coach [Rhoades] preaches that to us every day in practice.”
Williams notched his second straight game in double figures scoring with 10 points Sunday. The sophomore recorded 11 points in Wednesday’s victory over LSU.
Rhoades said he’s impressed with Williams’ rapid progression over the last month — the Toledo, Ohio, native recently returned to action following offseason shoulder surgery.
“He’s just a really good basketball player. He has a great feel for the game,” Rhoades said. “He’s always around the ball. … When he catches the ball, he already knows what to do with it.”
After VCU sprinted out to a dominant early lead, freshman guard Bones Hyland sent the Rams into the half with two 3-pointers to increase the black and gold’s lead to 19 at the break.
Hyland finished the game with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists. It was a nice rebound performance from the freshman, who Rhoades said worked relentlessly throughout the week to avenge a rough performance in the squad’s win over LSU.
“Part of being a freshman is you get pinched late in games. You have to go through some stuff as I always say, and he did,” Rhoades said. “I thought he had a great approach to practice since Wednesday. He really wants to get better and help his teammates.”
VCU’s lead ballooned to as high as 33 in the second half. The wide cushion gave Rhoades a chance to insert all five of his freshmen players into the contest at once.
During a timeout, freshman guards Arnold Henderson, Tre Clark and Jarren McAllister, joined Hyland and Hason Ward on the court.
For Henderson, Clark and McAllister, the massive substitution marked their first regular season action as VCU Rams. Rhoades said he was impressed with his freshmen in their first game action on the floor together.
“We have some young guys that can play. They play behind juniors and seniors, but they have the ability,” Rhoades said. “They’re getting better, they’re figuring it out. The hardest thing is how hard you have to play all the time — that’s the biggest adjustment, especially when you play at VCU.”
Sunday’s win marked the Rams’ largest margin of victory on the young season. But, Rhoades said he expects his guys to continue to play hard regardless of the score.
Moving forward, Rhoades said his crew’s main focus is going to be on themselves, rather than their opponent.
“It’s not who we play, it’s about us. We want to play to a standard that we expect of ourselves every time we practice and play,” Rhoades said. “That’s how we’ll get better as the year goes on.”
The Rams will be back at the Siegel Center on Saturday for a matchup with Florida Gulf Coast at 7 p.m.