VIDEO: VCU SHUTS DOWN RHODE ISLAND 68-52

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HIGHLIGHTS

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RHODE ISLAND COACH DANNY HURLEY

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SHAKA SMART

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JORDAN BURGESS, JEQUAN LEWIS, JUVONTE REDDIC

VIDEO: VCU DEFEATS FORDHAM 76-60

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HIGHLIGHTS

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SHAKA SMART

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MELVIN JOHNSON, JORDAN BURGESS, BRIANTE WEBER

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FORDHAM COACH TOM PECORA

MO’S A GO; FROSH MAKES EARLY IMPACT

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After sitting out the 2012-13 season, Mo Alie-Cox is averaging 3.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game this year.

After sitting out the 2012-13 season, Mo Alie-Cox is averaging 3.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game this year.

RICHMOND, Va. – It looks like Mo Alie-Cox was worth the wait.

Watching the 6-foot-6 freshman fly around the basketball court, slamming powerful dunks, blocking shots with his tennis racket hands, swallowing rebounds with his muscular, tree-branch arms, it’s hard to imagine the kinetic Alie-Cox – his dreadlocks flopping around as if they were hanging onto his scalp for dear life – as basically a man without a country last season.

Ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA last summer, the VCU freshman experienced the 2012-13 basketball season the same way many Rams fans did, from the stands. The Lorton, Va. native wasn’t allowed to practice with his teammates or even sit on the bench during games. He was on the VCU roster, but in a lot of ways, Alie-Cox was on his own team.

VCU Coach Shaka Smart met with Alie-Cox nearly every day last year after the freshman’s gym or weight room sessions to “try to give him some examples of things that would motivate him and things that were coming in the future.”

While Alie-Cox says he valued those conversations with Smart and his staff, there wasn’t a whole lot else that could be done to involve him in the day-to-day rigors of basketball season.

Instead, Alie-Cox was left to work out on his own with a training program designed by Strength and Conditioning Coach Daniel Roose. Alie-Cox may be physically impressive, but he says he had never seriously lifted weights before last year. When he finally did, he made some eye-popping – and muscle popping – gains.

Alie-Cox says he could only do about four body weight pull-ups when he got to college. The 250-pound Alie-Cox recently maxed out at 23. He also says he shaved three minutes off his mile run and can now bench press 185 pounds more than 20 times. Roose says that after returning to practice, Alie-Cox was able to squat all of the weight his staff could fit on the bar, nearly 600 pounds.

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VIDEO: VCU TOPS WOFFORD 72-57

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HIGHLIGHTS!

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SHAKA SMART!

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JEQUAN LEWIS, JORDAN BURGESS, TREVEON GRAHAM!

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WOFFORD COACH MIKE YOUNG!

VCU-EASTERN KENTUCKY NOTEBOOK

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Freshman JeQuan Lewis scored 13 points Thursday in VCU's 71-68 victory.

Freshman JeQuan Lewis scored 13 points Thursday in VCU’s 71-68 victory.

RICHMOND, Va. – As pure entertainment, VCU’s 71-68 overtime win over Eastern Kentucky Thursday at the Verizon Wireless Arena was terrific. There was practically March intensity in an early December game, the score was close, it was, for the most part, well-played, and the pace was often dizzying.

But Rams’ Coach Shaka Smart can invest very little emotionally in the basketball on the floor as a consumable product. As a coach, he’s got to be more clinical. For Smart, there’s likely more value in the victory as a progress report of sorts.

On that level, there was much for him to see. Some things, he’ll like, others, he won’t. But for the second straight game, his team provided a window through which to view how good it could be. On the other hand, Smart knows the Rams have plenty of work to do.

While the fans and media were bullish on VCU from day one, Smart has never sold the Rams as being a finished project. Sure, he’d like them to be, and Smart wants the Rams to be as good – and even better – as that top 10 ranking they once held, but we live in a world of college basketball where North Carolina can lose to UAB and then beat top-ranked Michigan State. The game is unpredictable, and teams don’t always realize their potential when coaches want. VCU certainly has moments of greatness. Capturing it and honing it is a skill in and of itself.

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GAME CHANGE; RAMS SHOW GROWTH, VERSATILITY IN UVA WIN

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Treveon Graham hit the game-winner, as VCU wrestled a Virginia-style victory away from the Cavaliers.

Treveon Graham hit the game-winner as VCU wrestled a Virginia-style victory away from the Cavaliers.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Treveon Graham has scored 832 points in his 74 games as a Ram, and he’s a safe bet for many, many more, but VCU fans are going to savor these three for a while.

Graham scored 22 points Tuesday night, including a lightning bolt 3-pointer from NBA range with 1.4 seconds left to give the 14th-ranked Rams a 59-56, meat grinder road victory at 25th-ranked Virginia.

It’s a shot, and a win, that will likely echo for years in Richmond. But beyond where the moment ranks for VCU fans in the annals, it has immediately become an important victory for this team; one that showcased the Rams’ potential, and one that could pay dividends down the road.

In a season where already much has been expected of the Rams (see their No. 14 national ranking), this was an early delivery on that promise. Although just the second game of the season, this contest, played before a crowd of nearly 14,000, held March-Madness, title-fight intensity. Rams’ Coach Shaka Smart may try to pump the brakes on the excitement over what is a single, November victory, but regardless, Tuesday’s win will remain notable.

This is the type of game critics said VCU couldn’t win. They said that the Rams’ up-tempo, chaotic Havoc style couldn’t translate against a team like Virginia. The Cavaliers, with their Pack Line defense and deliberate motion offense, were the kind of match-up problem that was supposed to be able to stop Havoc. And it did, for the most part.

But that’s kind of the point.

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VIDEO: SHAKA SMART UVA POSTGAME

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CALIFORNIA (PA.) EXHIBITION NOTEBOOK

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Despite the offseason chatter, fouls slid into the background of VCU's 92-54 win.

Despite a lot of offseason chatter fouls slid into the background of VCU’s 92-54 win.

BOX SCORE

RICHMOND, Va. – It’s a bit of a fishing expedition to find a reasonable narrative in these mismatched Division I-Division II exhibition games.  There’s a desire to look at the scoreboard, which showed that VCU earned a 92-54 win over California (Pa.) Saturday night, and extrapolate 100 superlatives from the wreckage of the box score. More often than not, it’s fool’s gold.

But Saturday, even as I waded through some impressive, if not gaudy, statistics, I was still struck by the depth of talent on this VCU team. If Shaka Smart truly desires a 10 or 11-man rotation, it sure looks like he’s got the horses to do it.

Smart essentially rotated 11 players in the first half and 10 in the second after Rob Brandenberg exited with back spasms. While there were moments of youthful frustration, there was hardly a dramatic drop-off in ability.

Freshman Doug Brooks led VCU in scoring with 14 points in 13 minutes of play. For most of those 13 minutes, he looked like Briante Weber with a better jumper and a disinterested barber.

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BLACK AND GOLD GAME SCRIBBLES AND OBSERVATIONS

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Sophomore Melvin Johnson led all players with 25 points Sunday.

Sophomore Melvin Johnson led all players with 25 points Sunday.

RICHMOND, Va. – VCU held an intra-squad exhibition Sunday night before 3,187 excited souls at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. It was many people’s, myself included, first chance to get a look at the 2013-14 Rams. While the Gold team came away with a 72-56 win, the score was little more than a matter of academics.

Here are some observations from courtside.

1-Guards, guards, guards and guards
To any fan who has followed this team of late, this is no surprise. VCU was expected to be deep in the backcourt this year. But until we got a chance to see a Jairus Lyles no-look pass or one of Doug Brooks’ four steals, it was hard to know how deep. If Sunday is any indication, uh, the Rams are insanely deep at the wings.

Returnees Rob Brandenberg, Briante Weber, Melvin Johnson and (if we’re calling him a guard today) Treveon Graham were pretty much the guys we knew they were. But JeQuan Lewis, Lyles, Doug Brooks and Jordan Burgess all had moments and illustrated how difficult a choice Shaka Smart will have when doling out minutes.

Lyles was magnetic for long stretches of the second half and he might end up being the Rams’ fourth option at point guard. Think about that. Lyles finished with eight points, six assists (two turnovers) and three steals.

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MEN’S BASKETBALL SUMMER NOTEBOOK: PART DEUX

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Terrance Shannon averaged 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds in 20 games last season.

Terrance Shannon averaged 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds in 20 games last season.

SHANNON ADDS DEPTH, INTRIGUE TO VCU LINEUP
RICHMOND, Va.VCU Basketball under Coach Shaka Smart has been known for many things: Havoc, quickness, speed, creating chaos, high energy; descriptors of a dynamic category. While there are plenty of ways to paint a picture of the Rams’ style of play, “physical” has not been one of the more popular adjectives.

But Smart hopes the addition of Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon, as well as other newcomers, will help change the way the Rams play and, in turn, are perceived.

Shannon transferred to VCU in May and will be eligible immediately under an NCAA provision that allows graduating seniors to transfer and play without sitting out a year. Shannon graduated from Florida State in May and will have one year of eligibility remaining.

A 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward, Shannon averaged 5.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in 72 career appearances. Last season, he averaged 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds and swiped 23 steals in 20 games. He earned a medical redshirt in 2011-12 after a shoulder injury limited him to just seven games.

Although occasionally beset by injuries at Florida State, Shannon gives the Rams a battle-tested post presence who can spell All-Conference forward Juvonte Reddic or play alongside him.

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