SOME LIGHT READING…

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WE’RE STILL HERE; RAMS THWART ODU, JOIN LIST OF CAA CONTENDERS

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NORFOLK, Va. – If nothing else, the VCU Women’s Basketball team sounded like a championship contender after Thursday night’s heart-pounding, 63-60, victory at Old Dominion. Like a team in mid-season form, the clichés were out in full force.

“…any time you can go on the road and win in the CAA is big.”
“We’ve got to take it one game at a time…”
“…it’s just another game…”

Etcetera, etcetera. Rinse and repeat.

Yup, the Rams said all the right things. They tried to be overtly humble and show a sense of perspective. They tried to act like it was just another game, but it’s really not that simple.

The magnitude of Thursday’s victory over the Lady Monarchs (11-6, 5-1 CAA), previously unbeaten in the CAA, is much greater than that. Considering that VCU (10-6, 5-1 CAA) once went 37 seasons between victories in Norfolk until a 75-56 triumph last season, it’s impossible to call any victory in the Ted Constant Center just another win. Not if you want anybody to believe you, anyway. READ MORE…

TO BE CONTINUED…

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I succumbed to the grind tonight. I’ve got a whole column coming sometime early Friday on the VCU Women’s Basketball team’s victory at Old Dominion Thursday night – a real game-changer. But a man has got to know his limits.

The last two days went something like this:
Men’s basketball game Wednesday (13 hour day), followed by a towed car at midnight. Got to bed around 1 a.m., woke up at 5:30 a.m. to take the wife to work (because I got towed) and for an 8 a.m. staff meeting. Go to work (also pick up car, set $125 on fire), make the donuts until 3:30, drive to Norfolk, watch Rams beat the Lady Monarchs, 63-60. Press conference, begin writing, quit at 10 p.m., knowing there’s a 90-120 minute drive ahead. Set alarm.

Basically, I tapped out tonight, but keep an eye out for blog goodies on Friday and congrats to the women’s basketball team on a huge, huge win tonight. More from Around The Horns in the A.M.

In the meantime…

VCU at ODU: PART 1

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VCU-ODU LIVE BLOG

NORFOLK, Va. – We’re in Norfolk a couple of days early for the VCU Women and the Lady Monarchs. It should be a good one.  This series, once a one-sided thorn in the Rams’ side, has become one of the more hotly-contested rivalries in the CAA. These two teams have split each of the last two season series. Additionally, VCU’s two losses the last two years have been by a combined three points. Last season, VCU hammered the Monarchs, 75-56 right here at the Constant Center in the Rams’ most lob-sided win in the series since the 1974-75 season. Don’t think ODU has forgotten.

There are a couple of interesting story lines in play tonight.

  • Old Dominion Coach Wendy Larry is seeking her 600th career win. She would be the 20th all-time and the 12th active coach to reach that mark.
  • VCU’s Courtney Hurt is 23 points from 1,000 for her career. Strangely, she’s looking to become the fifth straight Ram to reach 1,000 points in a game at Old Dominion. That’s just plain nuts. Hurt is averaging 24.1 points this season.

Follow the live blog for more details.

TALE OF TWO GAMES

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VCU’s 71-54 win over Georgia State Wednesday night couldn’t have looked any more different than the Rams’ 76-66 loss to the Panthers Jan. 3 in Atlanta. Rob Brandenberg scored 16 of his 23 points in the first half and Jamie Skeen added 15 in the victory, VCU’s fifth straight and seventh in eight games.

Here were a few of the keys to victory:

  • Eric Buckner, who blasted the Rams with 28 points and nine rebounds in the first meeting, scored just six points and did not attempt a field goal. Said GSU Coach Rod Barnes, “They were very physical with him. They did a good job of boxing him out. Last time he was able to get some scores in transition, but we weren’t able to do that tonight because we turned it over.”
  • Speaking of turnovers, VCU forced a season-high 24, which led to 27 points.
  • VCU also kept the rebounding edge, which was plus 18 in favor of the Panthers in the first meeting, to just 38-32 in favor of Georgia State. Given that the Rams took 16 more shots than the Panthers, that’s pretty reasonable.
  • Dante Curry, who leads the CAA in 3-point field goals made (3.1) was just 2-of-10 from long range Wednesday.
  • Rob Brandenberg is really, really good.
  • Troy Daniels knocked down 3-of-7 3-pointers and scored 10 points.

QUOTES OF THE NIGHT

  • Jamie Skeen (on David Hinton’s dunk in the closing seconds): “I told David after the game, I told him, all the time he’s up in the weight room, he should’ve broke the rim off. That little soft dunk ain’t gonna cut it, man. He wakes up in the weight room, so he needs to break the rim off. I told him that next time, you’d better hang on the rim and get a technical foul or something.”
  • Georgia State Coach Rod Barnes (his opening statement in the presser): “We got our butts kicked. Questions?”

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60 PERCENT OF THE TIME, IT WORKS EVERY TIME

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VCU-GEORGIA STATE LIVE BLOG

There’s little doubt that the Rams’ 76-66 loss at Georgia State still stings a bit. It’s still VCU’s only blemish in six CAA contests.

The reasons for that defeat are pretty clear. The Rams got killed on the boards (43-25), got killed in the paint (38-22), got killed by a JUCO transfer nobody had heard of until that night (Eric Buckner) and shot the ball like it was engulfed in flames (.333).

Shortly after VCU’s win over Northeastern on Saturday, Rams’ Head Coach Shaka Smart already started talking about the “payback” theme he’d likely be hammering into his players’ heads.

“We’re got to play with a greater energy and a greater urgency for doing the little things,” said Smart, who is 2-1 in is career against Georgia State. “There’s 101 details that come with that, our talk on the floor, our defensive stance, the way we pressure the ball, the way we go to the glass. I could go on and on.”

A good place to start would be to put the brakes on Buckner, who torched VCU for a career-high 28 points and nine rebounds on Jan. 3 in Atlanta.

Buckner, a 6-10 junior from Gulf Coast Community College, is averaging 10.5 points and 6.4 rebounds this season. He’s also hitting 58.5 percent of his field goal attempts.

“We need to play against him with more energy, more urgency as well,” Smart said. “We need to be physical with him, block him out, not let him score at the back of the press in 2-on-1 situations. Match his energy.”

One thing the Rams have working in their favor is history. The Panthers (8-8, 3-3 CAA) are one of four CAA squads that have never won at the Siegel Center. GSU is 0-5 all-time at the Stu.

Bonus note: CAA foes Delaware (0-9), Towson (0-8) and Hofstra (0-7) are also winless at the Siegel Center.

THE LINKS!

VIDEO OF THE DAY: MINI FRIDGE BEER CANNON
Who says American ingenuity is dead?

TUESDAY: STILL HERE

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So, first I missed out on the lotto for $350 million or whatever it was and now yesterday’s gig as an extra in a Virginia Lottery commercial failed to yield any future acting work. So much for Hollywood. I suppose that means you’ll see me in the office the rest of the week.

There was plenty of action this weekend, however. Both the VCU men and women beat Northeastern, a maneuver also known as the Huskie Sweep. I’ve already talked a bunch about the men’s game on Saturday, so perhaps some thoughts on the women’s contest?

HUSKIES HUMBLED
Frankly, this team women’s team is better than most of us expected. Courtney Hurt is better than we thought. The bench is better than we thought. Newcomers Sonia Johnson and Andrea Barbour are better than we thought. Everything.

The Rams topped Northeastern on Sunday, 79-58. Hurt dumped 19 points and 13 rebounds for her 14th double-double in 15 games.. VCU also got 17 points, six assists and three steals from Barbour (feature on her forthcoming) and 12 points from Johnson. Junior point guard Jennifer Lane also dished out seven assists.

So, we know the Rams are pretty good. The only problem is that we don’t know how good. But, in this world of instant gratification, we wait for nothing. The Rams (9-6, 4-1 CAA) meet both Old Dominion (Thursday) and James Madison (Sunday) on the road this week. By Monday, we’ll know much more about this squad than we did yesterday.

OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS

  • As good as Barbour has been, and she has been good, I think her best is yet to come. Barbour is a special type of athlete. She can literally do everything. Not only can she score, she can rebound (6.5 rpg), defend (3.0 spg) and handle the ball (2.8 apg). She’s too athletic and big for most of the guards in the CAA to match up with and she’s too quick for most post players.
  • Speaking of Barbour. She made her first start the other day. Senior Jessica Taylor had started the Rams’ first 14 contests, but was said to have told Coach Beth Cunningham that she was perfectly comfortable coming off the bench and would be more than happy to give way to Barbour in the starting lineup. Taylor knocked down 2-of-3 3-pointers yesterday and finished eight points.
  • The Rams had 19 assists yesterday and turned the ball over just 10 times.
  • Robyn Parks grabbed seven rebounds and scored five points in just 12 minutes off the bench Sunday.
  • Hurt’s double-double (19 points, 13 rebounds) was her 14th of the season. She needs five more to establish a new VCU single-season record.

TUESDAY LINKS!

VCU SUCCESS, ATTENDANCE GO HAND-IN-HAND

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There was VCU Athletic Director Norwood Teague during the Rams’ opening night win over UNC Greensboro earlier this season, making the rounds, slicing through the crowd with Joey Rodriguez-like agility. The promise of a new season of VCU Basketball showed in his spirited gait as he traded pleasantries with donors along the Verizon Wireless Arena’s newly-created courtside seating area.  As he glanced up at an electric opening-night crowd of more than 7,000, he hid his satisfaction poorly.

“Isn’t this incredible?” Teague beamed.

That Nov. 12 audience was the second-largest to witness a VCU season-opener since the Rams began play at Stuart C. Siegel Center in 1999. The near-capacity crowd underscored the school’s explosive growth in attendance since 2002.

On Nov. 30, 2002, VCU opened the 2002 season with an 80-72 loss to Wagner before a paid crowd of just 2,111. Two games later, 2,090 warm bodies showed up for a game with Florida Atlantic, the smallest home crowd in the building’s history. Men’s Basketball attendance averaged just 4,108 that season, while student attendance plunged to an average of 484 per game.

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DOM JONES IS STRAIGHT KILLING IT

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I’m starting to worry that Dom might be a better actor than me. Dude is trying to upstage me.

I’M KIND OF A BIG DEAL

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So, myself and a couple of other guys from the office are serving as extras in a Virginia Lottery commercial today. This acting thing is really starting to take off for me. I mean, first there was this:

What’s next? I figure it’s only a matter of time before I blow this one-horse town and head west. I’d tell you to say hi if we run into each other on the street, but I’ll probably pretend not to know you.

Anyway, I’m not the only one who has caught the acting bug. Former Ram Dom Jones is also involved in this thing. Dom is really stretching his acting legs and will be playing a basketball player.

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