HAVOC UNRAVELS AKRON, DEMANDS ENCORES

Leave a comment

Juvonte Reddic wore out Akron inside Thursday night to the tune of 21 points in the Rams' 88-42 rout.

Juvonte Reddic wore out Akron inside Thursday night to the tune of 21 points in the Rams’ 88-42 rout.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – If VCU was trying to get Michigan’s attention Thursday – not just the team, but the entire state – it did a terrific job of shining a light on itself.

In a rout for the ages, fifth-seeded VCU hammered 12th-seeded Akron 88-42 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64 in one of the most lob-sided games you’ll see in March. It was the largest margin of victory in a 5/12 game NCAA Tournament history and was the most one-sided NCAA loss by a MAC team in conference history.

Afterwards, Akron Coach Keith Dambrot could do little but accept a reality colder than the Michigan winter: that the Zips had no answer for VCU.

“This is a big-boy game,” he said. “You’ve got to take your butt-whuppin’ sometimes.”

And it was. With VCU’s Havoc defense churning out turnovers, the Rams attacked Akron’s defense – ranked second in the MAC in points allowed and first in field goal defense – with ease. Despite a decided size advantage inside, including 7-foot center Zeke Marshall, Akron could not keep the Rams out of the paint or away from the rim. The Rams got 21 points from forward Juvonte Reddic in 23 minutes and scored 40 points in the paint in all.

“Zeke Marshall’s a great shot blocker, but the last thing you want to do when a team has size or shot-blocking ability is over-respect them,” said VCU Coach Shaka Smart. “You want to go at them. If they block shots, they block some shots. It’s not the end of the world. But you want to make sure you get in the paint. You put pressure on their defense.”

Last season, VCU slipped past Akron in a 76-75 overtime barnburner. Dambrot said he watched the tape of that close loss three times this week and came away convinced the Zips could compete with the Rams. But they could not.

More

KEY MATCH-UP: ZEKE MARSHALL

Leave a comment

Akron 7-foot center Zeke Marshall ranks fourth nationally in blocked shots per game (3.7).

Akron 7-foot center Zeke Marshall ranks fourth nationally in blocked shots per game (3.7).

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Although VCU Coach Shaka Smart and Akron Coach Keith Dambrot share many basketball philosophies and favor similar playing styles, both of their teams play to their strengths.

VCU is loaded with athletic, speedy guards to fit its “Havoc” system of full-court pressing and open-floor playmaking. By contrast, Akron is geared more toward its strong post players Zeke Marshall, Demetrius Treadwell and Nick Harney.

Marshall is a particularly fascinating match-up. The senior from McKeesport, Pa. is arguably unlike any player the Rams have seen this season. Standing 7-feet tall with a 7-5 wingspan, Marshall is a rejection machine. He’s like government red tape in gym shorts.

Although still raw on the offensive end in many ways, Marshall has made continued progress over his career and is decidedly more effective than in the Rams’ previous meetings with the Zips in 2009 and last season. This year, Marshall has used an effective right-handed hook shot and short jumpers with stunning efficiency. In 32 games, he’s shooting 65 percent from the field, and he leads the Zips in scoring (13.1 ppg).

As valuable as Marshall has been on offense this year, it’s his shot-blocking ability that makes him special. Marshall is blocking 3.7 shots per game in about 28 minutes a night, a number which translates to about five per 40 minutes. Just the threat of Marshall in the paint is enough to alter game plans. VCU drivers will have to account for him. He’ll also own a decided height advantage over his most likely post match-up, 6-9 VCU forward Juvonte Reddic.

When these two teams met last season in Akron, Marshall made life difficult for VCU, blocking six shots while altering a number of others.

“It felt like 15 blocks,” Smart said Tuesday.

Marshall is averaging 7.0 rebounds per game, a reasonable, albeit not outstanding number for a player of his size. Although he’s added muscle over the years – he was noticeably thinner when the Rams faced him in 2009 – Marshall weighs in at 235 pounds, and stronger players may be able to move him away from the rim with proper positioning.

In all, Marshall presents the Rams with a unique challenge, one Smart is acutely aware of.

“I don’t know much about the NBA, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t find a way to stick at the next level,” said Smart.

VCU will likely attempt to negate Marshall’s skills by pushing the pace, rather than let him set up shop in the paint. It won’t be easy, as Marshall runs the floor well for a 7-footer. Akron, meanwhile, will play play from the inside out, and then back in again.

“They’re going to try to speed us up, make us try to make mistakes and we’re going to try to throw the ball to our big guys and it’s as simple as that,” Dambrot said.

HAVOC WON’T SNEAK UP ON DAMBROT, ZIPS

Leave a comment

Keith Dambrot, 210-93 at Akron, is a close friend of Shaka Smart and says he regularly watches the Rams on TV.

Keith Dambrot, 210-93 at Akron, is a close friend of Shaka Smart and says he regularly watches the Rams on TV.

AKRON, Ohio – If anybody knows what he’s in for, it’s Keith Dambrot.

VCU Coach Shaka Smart worked as an assistant under Dambrot from 2004-06, and the two remain close friends. Smart and Dambrot play styles that are similar, and as long as they’re not facing each other, they’ve been known to closely watch each other’s games and openly root for one another.

“The bad thing is, he could coach our team, and I could probably coach his team. That’s how much we know about each other,” Dambrot said Monday, ahead of 12th-seeded Akron’s Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game with the fifth-seeded Rams, which will be played Thursday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Dambrot knows all about VCU’s full-court pressure, “Havoc”, and its prolific reputation for taking the ball away from the opposition. The Rams set a school record for steals this year and lead the country in that category. VCU (26-8) also leads the nation in turnover percentage for the second straight season.

“Look, I’ve watched them play more than any team in the country other than us,” Dambrot said. “They’re going to try to speed us up, make us try to make mistakes, and we’re going to try to throw the ball to our big guys and it’s as simple as that. It’s a simplistic game.”

More

RAMS EARN STRIPES IN ROAD STUNNER

4 Comments

Freshman Briante Weber provided 11 points and 5 steals in a gutty VCU win.

AKRON, Ohio – VCU freshman Briante Weber turned 19 Thursday, but he wasn’t the only Ram grew up a little bit on this night. The whole VCU team, complete with the blessings and curses of youth, walked out of Akron’s Rhodes Arena with a little more of an upperclassman’s swagger Thursday night.

Darius Theus’ baseline layup with 2.7 seconds left gave the Rams a heart pounding 76-75 win over a quality Akron team. It was a game that the Rams, at times, looked like they had no business winning, but did. When everything went wrong, VCU still found a way. This was a gut-check game. It’s type of win that’s exciting at the time, but will be even more valuable down the road.

“For our players, this is something that we can put in our back pocket and use in January and February,” said VCU Coach Shaka Smart. “Because we’re going to be on the road in league play, in similar environments against similarly talented teams and we’re going to have to find ways to win games that are not necessarily pretty.”

More

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,637 other followers

%d bloggers like this: