The first half of the game was nip and tuck as the “Battle of the Rams” went into the half with VCU up by the slimmest of margins, 29-28.
VCU was only up by two points heading into the 12 minute media timeout. It was then that “Havoc” ensued.
“Havoc” is the term that VCU head coach Shaka Smart and his coaching staff uses for his up-tempo, full-court defensive attack. Smart utilized a variety of presses, including a straight man-to-man, a scramble man-to-man, and a 1-2-1-1 zone press to keep Rhode Island off balance.
This frantic pace sped Rhode Island up and forced them into some crucial turnovers during the 2nd half. URI kept it close though before VCU reeled off seven straight points, making it a 50-41 game. A late rally by URI kept the game interesting, but VCU never let the game get closer than 5 points and had the lead up to as much as 15 points with under four minutes to go.
VCU needed this win against Rhode Island, as it had lost its previous two Atlantic-10 games against the Richmond Spiders and LaSalle Explorers respectively. These losses also knocked VCU out of the Top 25 polls.
VCU improved to 8-0 under head coach Shaka Smart coming off back-to-back losses.
Despite the win, VCU planned on getting their swagger back against URI and that really did not happen. The Ryan Center crowd was involved all night for URI and helped Rhode Island chip away and play hard until the final horn. Only VCU’s execution and clutch free throw shooting kept the game from getting under a two possession game.
Surely, VCU is better than they showed against Rhode Island. They could have finished better at the rim and also could have shot much better from behind the three-point line. Strangely enough, VCU’s defense did not win the turnover battle, as they were -1 against URI, a statistic which they had been +8.1 heading into this game.
The good news for VCU is that they have the Fordham Rams coming to town later this week. Expect the “Battle of the Rams II” to turn out similar for VCU with “Havoc” getting more results than it did in Rhode Island.
Coach Smart hopes that the games against the Rams’ will provide a foundation for VCU to begin another long winning streak as they set their sites for the Butler Bulldogs which could mean the regular season title and a leg up in seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo