One positive development from Thursday’s disappointing 78-77 loss to Richmond was the play of freshman center Aprill McRae.
McRae scored a season-high 13 points and collected 7 rebounds on the night in 34 minutes. She came into the night averaging 2.4 points per game. Making her second consecutive start, the 6-foot-3 Raleigh, N.C. native has active and physical. Four of her rebounds came on the offensive glass.
“She’s going to be very good,” said Richmond Coach Michael Shafer. “I wish she was a senior.”
Unfortunately for Shafer, McRae is a college rookie and just scratching the surface of her potential. Ranked the No. 22 post player in the nation by ESPN Hoopgurlz, McRae is arguably the most heavily recruited player VCU Coach Beth Cunningham has signed during her tenure.
Thursday, McRae showed what the hype was all about. With 11:11 remaining, senior Courtney Hurt, VCU’s leading scorer and rebounder, went to the bench with her fourth foul. At the time, the Rams trailed 59-57. Over the next seven minutes, McRae combined with sophomore Robyn Parks and senior Andrea Barbour to spark a 16-6 VCU run.
During one sequence, McRae scored five straight Rams’ points, including a play that saw her block a shot and then run the length of the floor in time to score on a feed from Park.
“She’s really come in as a freshman and really made an impact for us with her presence in the paint,” Cunningham said. “One of the biggest things is that she’s just come in with a great attitude. Obviously with her size, just how hard she works, it’s put her in a position where she’s able to get some good results for us.”
While her offensive game is far from a finished product, her size and athleticism allowed McRae to be a factor on the defensive side of the floor. There were signs of growth Thursday, however. McRae entered the game shooting 29 percent (5-of-18) from the floor, but hit 6-of-8 field goals.
VCU has now lost four straight games to Richmond… The Rams are 3-0 on the road, but 0-3 at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Siegel Center this season. VCU was 48-10 at home the last four years, prior to their recent losing streak… VCU grabbed 21 offensive rebounds Thursday, 11 more than Richmond, but had just a 17-13 edge in second chance points… VCU handed out a season-high 21 assists. Senior Jennifer Lane and Barbour distributed six each… Thursday’s game featured 10 ties and 17 lead changes.