Arrick Wilson, Interim Sports Editor
The VCU men’s basketball program fell to the Wagner Seahawks 58-44 during Saturday night’s homecoming game, at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. The Siegel Center was an ocean of black and yellow, with 7,412 Ram fans and alumni in the stands loudly cheering “defense” to rally the Rams.
Head basketball coach Mike Rhoades commended the fans for their efforts of coming out, but took the responsibility for “letting them down,” as the Seahawks spoiled the Rams’ homecoming game.
“We had 1,300 students — VCU students — at our game today, which has been the highest in a long, long time. And I just want to commend them … they’re awesome, and we let them down tonight,” Rhoades said.
Rebounds were key in this contest, as the Seahawks outrebounded the Rams 42-24, only allowing 18 points in the second-quarter.
“Very disappointing. All facets of the game, and we’re gonna get it right,” Rhoades said in an opening statement during the postgame press conference. “We got a lot of work to do.”
The Seahawks were led by Northeast Conference Player of the Year, graduate guard Alex Morales, who scored 20 points and had 11 rebounds. Morales was efficient in getting to the lane, scoring eight points in the paint.
Morales was 100% from behind the three-point arc scoring on his two attempts, 100% from the free-throw line making all six of his attempts and 60% from the field recording six of the 10 shots.
Senior guard KeShawn Curry led the Rams with 12 points, four rebounds and two assists. Junior guard Marcus Tsohonis also had seven points and five assists.
The Rams struggled with 3-point shots on Saturday, shooting 27% from behind the arc and only making three of their 11 attempts.
“We’re not getting each other good open threes,” Rhoades said. “We got to shoot the ball better, but we got to get better shots when we’re taking a lot of bad twos and a lot of forced shots.”
The Rams also struggled as a whole offensively, only making 40.5% of their shots, 46.7% of their free-throws and turning the ball over 15 times as a team.
“We beat ourselves, honestly. We didn’t make the right reads and we didn’t plan on offense,” said graduate forward Levi Stockard.
Wagner led over VCU at halftime, 27-26. In the first half, the black and gold held the lead for nine minutes. The first half was a close game as the lead fluctuated, changing six times and tying three.
At the start of the second half, the Seahawks went on two pivotal runs to extend their lead over the Rams. Wagner graduate guard Elijah Ford only recorded three minutes in the first half, then went off in the second half, scoring a quick eight points in the first six minutes.
Ford was hyped up, leaving the Rowdy Rams student section in a hush after sinking two free throws. The Rams only scored 18 points in the second half, shooting 33.3% from the field.
“We scored 18 points in the second half. They [Wagner] had a lot to do with it, but we didn’t help ourselves at all,” Rhoades said.
Looking ahead, the Rams will be on the road for the first time this season as the black and gold travel to Nashville, Tennessee to face the Southeastern Conference’s Vanderbilt Commodores on Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. Freshman forward Jalen DeLoach is looking forward to Nashville and working harder to improve.
“Practice harder, practice rebounding, things like that. Film session, for sure,” DeLoach said. “I’m definitely looking forward to playing Nashville. First game on the road ever in college, so I can’t wait.”
The Rams anticipate facing more competitive teams on their schedule like Syracuse University, which the Rams will see in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Nov. 24. The Syracuse Orange made it to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 last season, according to the NCAA 2021 March Madness bracket.
“These guys want to win, but there’s a certain way you got to do it to win. And we’re not doing that at a high enough level to win, especially these games coming up,” Rhoades said. “We’re not sugarcoating this. We got beat on our floor by a tougher team. And we frayed and we got to fix it quick.”
The Rams will play an away game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Nov. 17 at 8 p.m., at the Memorial Gymnasium at Vanderbilt University. The game will be televised on SEC Network+.