Game #9-176: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Virginia Commonwealth RamsDecember 18, 2012 7:00 pm
I was pretty lucky growing up. I hit the dad and grandpa lottery. My dad is a golf professional, so free golf never hurts. My grandpa (my mom's dad) ran a golf shop in town just about five minutes away from my dad's course. What does this have to do with anything regarding basketball? Both always had a lot of connections and we basically had free season tickets to both VCU and the University of Richmond. Times have changed now, my grandfather has passed away and my dad remains a club pro. The biggest change though has been VCU.
Growing up, VCU was the red headed step child of basketball in Richmond. While the Spiders had a rich tradition and were constantly competing for CAA titles, VCU had one title to their name in 1996. Things started to change a little when Richmond bolted to the Atlantic 10 and VCU hired Jeff Capel. Capel put together a scrappy, fun team who won the CAA championship. I'll never forget the road trip I took with my friend Lauren and her family to see VCU take on Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2004. It was an awesome game, even though the Rams barely lost to the talented Demon Deacons.
Back then, and even through the Anthony Grant years, VCU remained a pretty easy ticket to get. You always knew someone looking to get rid of a ticket or you could just walk up to the box office. But then the Final Four struck. Now the Rams are in the midst of 24 consecutive sell outs. The Siegel Center is always packed and parking is a nightmare. While I can go to a Spiders game for $5 any night, standing room only tickets to VCU cost $25. That's right folks, $25 to stand and watch a college basketball game.
Thankfully, Lauren's family still supports the Rams (and will forever). Quite simply, they are an awesome family that loves VCU basketball. I was lucky enough to grab a ticket from Lauren for the Western Kentucky game. At halftime we got to talking about how much has changed with VCU basketball. I miss the old days, but I was actually surprised when she admitted that she did also. I think I have this strange drive to build things. I'm a loyal fan of the pro teams in DC and my Longwood Lancers. Needless to say, I haven't seen much success with my sports teams. But Lauren got me thinking, what do I do when I reach that success? The chase seems to be so much more fun.
The atmosphere at VCU is absolutely electric, but the double-edged sword that it brings is that there are a lot of new basketball fans at games, fans that weren't around before the Rams Final Four run. It's frustrating at times to hear the boos or complaints from fans merely because a referee has blown his whistle. Fans all around me kept berating the officials in the first half tonight because VCU had so many more fouls than the Hilltoppers in the first half. But, of course, VCU plays their "Havoc" style of defense which lends to more fouls.
Watching VCU play is almost frustrating, they are just so freaking good at pressing on defense. They come after you in waves and waves of different players and everyone always seems to have fresh legs. I don't get frustrated because I'm rooting against the Rams, but you can just see the helplessness and frustration in opposing guards faces. Tonight was especially hard to watch because I knew my turnover prone alma mater was making a visit to Broad Street in the Rams' next match up on Friday. The story was no different for WKU, as they turned the ball over 32 times.
I thought heading to VCU tonight that I'd see a pretty solid game. Western Kentucky had played VCU well in the past couple of years and VCU was favored by 17 points this evening. When I got to the arena. I learned that the Hilltoppers' two top scorers TJ Price and Jamal Crook were inactive for the evening (I'm guessing due to injury). Despite getting blown out 76-44, the Hilltoppers looked like a squad that would once again be at the top in the Sun Belt Conference.
No one had a standout night for the Rams, it was just a total team effort. VCU actually had some pretty poor shot selection chucking up 24 threes and making 8, but their defense and offense generated by it masked that deficiency. Juvonte Reddic, Rob Brandenburg, Briante Weber, and Treveon Graham all finished in double figures.
Now I sit, wait, and cringe as Friday approaches. No, not because of the Mayans...but because my turnover prone Lancers head to my hometown to see Shaka Smart and his "HAVOC."
at VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 76, WESTERN KENTUCKY 44
WESTERN KENTUCKY 8-4 (2-0) -- B. Harris 1-6 4-6 7; G. Fant 4-9 0-2 8; K. Kaspar 3-4 0-0 8; P. Blade 2-6 2-5 7; T. Akol 1-4 0-0 3; O. Akamune 0-1 1-2 1; A. Rostov 3-5 0-0 7; E. Alcantara 1-4 0-0 2; K. Anyigbo 0-1 1-2 1; S. Drane 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 15-42 8-17 44.
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 8-3 (0-0) -- J. Reddic 2-11 6-8 10; R. Brandenberg 4-9 1-2 12; M. Johnson 2-6 0-0 4; T. Daniels 2-7 0-0 6; B. Weber 5-7 3-4 13; T. Graham 4-10 2-2 11; D. Theus 2-2 0-0 4; J. Guest 2-5 0-0 4; D. Haley 1-2 0-0 2; T. Okereafor 1-1 0-0 3; J. Tuoyo 2-4 0-1 5; D. Hinton 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 28-66 12-17 76.
Three-point goals: WKU 6-15 (T. Akol 1-2; K. Kaspar 2-3; E. Alcantara 0-2; P. Blade 1-2; B. Harris 1-4; A. Rostov 1-2), VCU 8-24 (T. Daniels 2-7; J. Reddic 0-1; R. Brandenberg 3-7; T. Okereafor 1-1; T. Graham 1-2; J. Guest 0-1; J. Tuoyo 1-2; M. Johnson 0-3); Rebounds: WKU 33 (G. Fant 8), VCU 34 (J. Guest 7); Assists: WKU 8 (B. Harris 5), VCU 17 (D. Theus 5); Total Fouls -- WKU 18, VCU 23; Fouled Out: WKU-None; VCU-None.