Arrick Wilson, Sports Editor
The VCU men’s basketball program defeated the Saint Joseph’s Hawks 70-54 during a Saturday afternoon game, at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
The Rams had an unexpected start to the game, trailing the Hawks: eight to zero. The black and gold didn’t get on the scoreboard until the fourth minute of the game. In addition to their dryspell, the Rams accumulated five turnovers early in the game which led to points for the Hawks. In a postgame interview, Rhoades said his main message to the team in the early run was to remain calm.
“Don’t panic and think we got to get it back in one possession. Get back to playing defense the way we’re capable of playing defense and not turn the ball over,” Rhoades said.
The Rams grabbed the lead with three minutes left in the half, charging against the Hawks with nine steals. VCU senior forward Vince Williams Jr. gave props to the defense for creating turnovers to bring the Rams back into the game.
“I think our defenses just weared them down, and they was turning the ball, but we was turning the ball over right back to them. So it was 50-50, but we got the upper hand on the turnovers tonight,” Williams said.
Williams tied his career-high in points today, scoring 21 points along with seven rebounds. The Toledo, Ohio native also scored a team-high of four threes from beyond the arc. VCU sophomore guard Adrian “Ace” Baldwin Jr. praised his teammate Willams for his shooting abilities.
He [Williams] is a shooter. So keep shooting. No matter if you miss a hundred in a row — just keep shooting,” Baldwin said.
Redshirt senior Taylor Funk led the Hawks in points with 22, with three of those shots from the three point line. A redshirt is when there is a pause in an athlete’s career, often to prolong their career, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Sophomore guard Jordan Hall also had 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
In the second half, the Rams routed the Hawks outscoring them by 17 points, while having 14 points off of the Hawks turnovers. Baldwin grabbed a career-high of seven steals this afternoon, signaling that the full court defense caused turnovers for the Rams.
“Stick to the press, like just heat them up — just keep heating them up was exactly what coach was preaching,” Baldwin said. “I’m not gonna lie they a good team but, it’s like the pressure really get to them. So, coach was like just heat them up this half.”
In the last six minutes of the game, the Rams outscored the Hawks, 17 to six being led by chants of “defense” and “let’s go VCU” by the rowdy home crowd. Rhoades said he appreciated the home crowd and band.
The Siegel Center was packed with many Ram fans witnessing the Jersey retiring of VCU alumnus Treveon Graham. Graham’s number 21 jersey was lifted into the rafters in the opening ceremony. Graham averaged 16.2 points and 7.1 rebounds in his senior year for the Rams in 2015. He went on to play four years in the NBA for four different teams. Currently, Graham is second all-time in VCU points on the Men’s basketball leaderboard.
“Great atmosphere to honor Treveon Graham with a W — Our students were tremendous, all the students that showed up today, Saturday afternoon game, I really appreciate that,” Rhoades said. “And the Peppas as always first class and that was a lot of fun today.”
Graham served as a model for future Rams, as well as an overall key player for the team, Rhoades said.
“He’s [Graham] one of the greatest examples in all the years that I’ve coached that he was so coachable — he was a killer,” Rhoades said. “He was the best player on our team for three years. Just tells you something.”
Rhoades said the team wants to take on that “momentum” from today’s game on the road to play a “great Davidson team.”
The Rams will play an away game against the Davidson Wildcats on Jan. 26 at 8:30 p.m., at the John M. Belk Arena at Davidson College. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.