Life Is A Highway...
Tonight, we lock the car doors. Buckle the seat belts. Adjust the mirrors. Check for oncoming traffic, twice, because the season is merging from a dead stop straight onto interstate 95.
GW begins a stretch of four games in 11 days for the Rams. Following tonight, VCU faces the always-lovely trip to Bonnies, followed by home games against Davidson and St. Joseph’s. The traffic flow only increases from there. VCU next heads to Davidson and then back home for an eight-mile, four-hour sojourn at the Robins Center. Then, Dayton comes into the Siegel Center. Pedal to the metal.
The Rams have crept into a few at-large conversations and I beg you to look at the big picture. As fans, the whole “I’m looking at it one game at a time” has always cracked me up. It’s fun to plot and dream, to prematurely stress about two difficult road games and then a home game against a schizophrenic but talented burgeoning rival. If it really mattered, I’d tell Kowalczyk to release the games one at a time. Thanks to covid, we’re kind of getting there anyway.
THE LAST GAME, IN BRIEF (THANKS, JERRY)
Good teams go on the road and beat down a struggling team. That’s what happened in VCUs 85-66 win over LaSalle, a step forward on many fronts. Marcus Tsohonis hit five of six threes and led the team with 17 points. Vince Williams put up crooked numbers in most every statistical category. Jalen DeLoach continued his ascent and playing noticeably stronger.
Of note to me: the Rams assisted on 22 of 32 made field goals, including 12 of 16 in the first half. And Williams drew two charges and had three steals. Guards get attention for assist-to-turnover ratio. I’m keeping an eye on turnovers-forced to turnovers-committed ratio and Vince was 5:1. VCU got four extra possessions solely thanks to Williams.
Our old friend Jamion Christian, one of the better human beings on the planet, brings a 4-9 squad into the Siegel Center tonight. The Colonials were blitzed 83-58 by Dayton the other day in its only conference game. Best win is over Wright State and they played Maryland very tough earlier in the year. Kenpom has the good guys winning 71-54.
James Bishop, who scored 24 against VCU in last year’s game, and Virginia Tech transfer Joe Bamisile, are Christian’s two leading scorers. However the player to watch is freshman guard Brayon Freeman. He hit five threes against Dayton and scored 17 points. What’s more, Freeman handed out five assists and his assist-to-turnover ratio to 27:9 over the last five GW games. Bamisile may also be a barometer. He averages 16.7ppg and shoots 57% in GW wins, and 12.8ppg and 39% shooting in losses. Bamisile has scored 25 points in two of the last three games and is averaging 19.3ppg while shooting 60% from the floor in that stretch.
Stat of the game, brought to you by Chris Kowalczyk: Freshman Jayden Nunn is averaging 9.9ppg. That is second on the team this year, and the second-highest total in program history (Shawn Hampton, 10.3ppg in 1998-99).
DO YOU REMEMBER?
January 27, 2015: A 16-4 GW team rode into The Stu to face a 16-3, 14th-ranked VCU team in a battle for first place in the A10. VCU swamped GW 72-48 and left Mike Lonergan whining like only Lonergan can muster. The Rams pulled a Kurz, forcing 16 GW turnovers and allowing only 14 made field goals. Freshman Terry Larrier had 15 points, four rebounds, two assists, a steal and no turnovers in 22 minutes.
THIS IS THE LAST SECTION
I'll be looking at legs tonight. Get your head out of the gutter. In both games since the covid stoppage, VCU has missed a sharpness in its defensive play. The lingering effects are obvious and guys playing more minutes than usual has contributed. As we enter this four-in-11 stretch energy is going to matter even more than usual.
VCU is 2-0 since the stoppage and, in the words of Mike Rhoades, "playing the right way." This team has gotten to 9-4 with high energy and not playing that way, and with strained energy playing that way.
If those come together? Hoo-baby.