TILLMAN STEPPING INTO THE FOREFRONT FOR VCU

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Senior forward Justin Tillman has scored 41 points in 41 minutes this season.

By Andy Lohman

RICHMOND, Va. – VCU’s 95-85 win over North Florida on Monday night was, frankly, exhausting.

The Rams brought their patented press, scoring 23 points off 16 Osprey turnovers. UNF ripped 17 made three pointers. The entire game was played at 100 miles per hour, both teams sprinting the floor for 40 minutes, and it resulted in an NBA scoreline.

To win in a game like that, one that’s played at a pace that could break the sound barrier, you have to be relentless. On Monday night, VCU was relentless, and it started with the play of senior forward Justin Tillman.

“They’re really, really good at being relentless for 40 minutes,” UNF Head Coach Matt Driscoll said of VCU’s drive.

Tillman scored a career-high 27 points, and tied for a team high with eight rebounds. And he did it all in just 24 minutes on the floor.

“Even though we win, we should come out every game hungry,” Tillman said.

By the first media timeout four minutes into the game, Tillman collected 12 points and had the sellout crowd at EJ Wade Arena at the Siegel Center chanting his name. He started the contest by knocking down two lay-ups and a turnaround jumper, and rejecting a UNF shot out of bounds.

In a tightly-contested first half, Tillman got the crowd on its feet again with a thunderous alley-oop from senior guard Johnny Williams to give the Rams a 25-24 lead.

By halftime he was 9-for-9 from the floor with 18 points.

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FROM THE BLOG: RAMS CELEBRATE 100TH SELLOUT IN OPENER

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By Andy Lohman

Jan. 29, 2011 was a momentous day for VCU men’s basketball. The Rams defeated UNCW in crucial conference game, 79-70 in front of a sold out homecoming crowd at the E.J. Wade Arena at Siegel Center.

On Friday night, VCU played in front of its 100th consecutive sellout crowd, defeating Grambling State 94-65 on homecoming night.

VCU has come a long way since that January night. That spring, the Rams would make their historic run to the Final Four, defeating USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and Kansas along the way.

Since then, VCU is one of just eight teams in the country to make seven consecutive NCAA tournaments, fueled by the high-press “havoc” defense and rowdy crowds that created a formidable home-court advantage.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

On that fateful January night in 2011, Joey Rodriguez led four Rams in double figures with 25 points. He was playing for head coach Shaka Smart, who was assisted by Mike Rhoades. Friday night saw Rhoades’ return to the Siegel Center for his first game as head coach. On his staff, returning to his alma mater as Director of Player Personnel: Joey Rodriguez.

Just like seven years ago, the VCU box score was filled with double-figure scorers. Justin Tillman, De’Riante Jenkins, and Johnny Williams all had 14, while Khris Lane and Malik Crowfield added 11 and 10, respectively.

The biggest constant across 100 sellouts, however, is the energy of the Siegel Center crowd, which was on full display Friday night. Tillman got the VCU faithful warmed up with a tough and-one for the Black and Gold’s first points of the game.

They got even louder when freshman Marcus Santos-Silva followed up a block on one end with a fastbreak lay-up on the other. They were louder still when Jenkins hit two consecutive 3-pointers to put VCU up 44-26 with 2:46 left in the first half.

But it wasn’t until the second half that the crowd noise reached its peak. Freshman guard Tyler Maye hit redshirt sophomore Issac Vann on an outlet pass, and Vann slammed home a tomahawk dunk, causing the Siegel Center to erupt with noise.

A Lane dunk in transition, and an acrobatic lay-up from Williams just added to the volume as the Rams pushed the lead to 68-35 and sealed the win.

With VCU in the driver’s seat for the last 12 minutes of the game, the consecutive sellout streak hit 100 in the same way that it started: with a Rams win. VCU is 87-13 at home in that stretch, a win percentage of .870.

After the win over the Seahawks in 2011, VCU improved to 18-5 and 10-1 in Colonial Athletic Association play. The Rams were certainly eyeballing the NCAA Tournament, but nobody could have predicted the Final Four run that was to come. Nor could anybody foresee the sellout streak that was to come.

Now the sellouts, and the NCAA Tournament appearances, are expected. The 2017-18 Rams, with nine newcomers and a new head coach, are somewhat of an unknown. What is known is that the havoc is in full effect, both with up-tempo basketball on the court, and 7,637 screaming fans in the stands.

HALLOWEEN: VCU STYLE

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VCU teams really got into Halloween Tuesday. Check out how three squads, baseball, volleyball and women’s basketball, celebrated.

MEDIA MINUTES: OCT. 31 (MIKE RHOADES DEBUT)

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Basketball season is bearing down on us. Here’s VCU Coach Mike Rhoades in his debut weekly press conference to size up the current status of his team and to take a look at Friday’s exhibition with Virignia Union.

DESPITE FAMILIAR FACES, BEAN WILL AIM TO KEEP FOCUS ON VCU FRIDAY

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VCU Field Hockey Coach Stacey Bean (right) is set to lead the Rams against St. Francis (Pa.), a program she led from 2008-16 on Friday, Oct. 20. 

By Evan Nicely

VCU Field Hockey’s 2017 season has reached a crucial point, as the Rams embark on the final three-game stretch to close out Atlantic 10 play and attempt to qualify for the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the first time since 2013.

The first leg of that home stretch begins Friday against a familiar foe for VCU Head Coach Stacey Bean, Saint Francis (Pa.). Bean, who served as head coach for the Red Flash from 2008-16 prior to joining VCU, says despite the history, it’ll be just another A-10 conference game.

“It really is the same. A lot of people point out that we’re playing Saint Francis on the 20th and I just tell them we’re playing another conference team. We respect all of our opponents and especially our A-10 opponent. The respect level is there. I know their team and I know a lot of their kids but they have a different coach and are playing a different style, similar to what we’re doing here at VCU with a different style and different coach,” said Bean.

Under her tutelage, the Red Flash won at least 10 games each of the last three seasons, advancing to the Atlantic 10 Tournament twice in those years. Bean was also named the A-10 Coach of the Year in 2014 and the Northeast Conference Coach of the Year in 2012. Her 2016 Saint Francis team boasted two First Team All-Atlantic 10 selections, one second team choice and two All-Atlantic 10 Rookie selections.

Despite her coaching success with the Red Flash and knowledge of the program, she won’t be facing the same type of team she knew.

“They’re very much a different team even though I’m familiar with their program. Our focus is always on what we do well and let’s try to do that a little bit better week-to-week,” said Bean.

Bean successfully guided the Red Flash from the Northeast Conference into the competitive Atlantic 10 in 2013 and never posted a losing season during her team’s four years in the A-10. The Red Flash finished 10-7 in 2015, 14-3 in 2014 and 8-8 in 2013. A big reason for her success was her players at Saint Francis.

“They’re good kids, and I recruited them for a reason. They’re talented, work their butts off and I have a lot of respect for that program. It’ll be really nice to see those kids, but my focus is on our kids and our team. I’ll say hi to them afterwards but our focus has to be on our opponent and not necessarily a familiar face,” said Bean.

The focus on the game is an important one as the Rams are tied with Saint Francis for the fourth spot in the A-10 standings and are just ahead of La Salle, Sunday’s opponent. Two VCU wins this weekend would go a long way in clinching a spot in the A-10 Tournament. Luckily for the Rams, both games are being played on their home turf at Cary Street Field.

“It’s human nature to have a different mentality when you’re playing at home. It’s our turf so you can get a little stoked game. They’re conference games and by nature the kids are going to be fired up for A-10 conference games,” said Bean.
For a new coach and staff, the Rams have already surpassed last season’s win total and are looking to qualify for the first A-10 Tournament since 2013.

“I think we’re right where we should be in the mix for one of those top four spots. We’ve set ourselves up well for this stretch run with home games against conference opponents like Saint Francis and La Salle who are having good years but we get them at home,” said Bean.

INSIDE A-10 MEN’S BASKETBALL MEDIA DAY

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Enjoy this look at Mike Rhoades’ and Justin Tillman’s trip to Atlantic 10 Conference Media Day in Washington, D.C.

VIDEO: BLACK & GOLD GAME

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VCU FIELD HOCKEY, FASTER, FEISTIER IN 2017

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Freshman Maite Sturm has been one of the driving forces behind VCU Field Hockey’s resurgence in 2017.

By Andy Lohman

VCU field hockey shifted gears for the 2017 season, and it’s paying immediate dividends.

Midway through Head Coach Stacey Bean’s first year at the helm of the Rams, they have already surpassed last year’s win total (7) with a record of 8-3. The team’s 8-1 record through its first nine matches was the program’s best start since 2012.

The intensity of the program has changed, and the Rams playing up-tempo hockey.

“We’ve just really changed two things,” Bean said. “I think the tempo of training has changed, just the level of focus. And then also we’ve changed our system of play a little bit to put some kids in some positions that I think that are better for their skill set.”

The faster game has led to more goals. Through 11 games, the Rams have found the back of the net 28 times, for a 2.55 goals per game average. Last season, VCU averaged just 2.17 goals per contest.

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BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND…

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SEAL Team PT is back.  Mike Rhoades, a high-energy fella, loves him some SEAL Team. While these players are already in outstanding shape, SEAL Team PT is also an opportunity for team building. These guys can run suicides any day they want, but SEAL Team offers something more. Enjoy!

RODRIGUEZ EYES NEW CHAPTER IN VCU RETURN

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Joey Rodriguez, who helped lead the Rams to the Final Four in 2011, returns in 2017 as director of player development for the Rams.

By Andy Lohman

Joey Rodriguez had to take a circuitous route back to VCU, but the fan-favorite point guard from the 2011 Final Four team is now the Director of Player Development for men’s basketball.

“It’s just cool to be back, it brings back so many memories,” Rodriguez said. “We can take this thing to another level and that’s really exciting.”

After an outstanding career at VCU, where he ranks third in school history in both assists (580) and steals (237), and where he helped steer the Rams to a historic Final Four run in 2011, Rodriguez briefly played professional basketball in Turkey and Puerto Rico. He would then begin his coaching career as the Assistant Video Coordinator at Central Florida.

Following a year with the Golden Knights, Rodriguez dove into the realm of high school basketball, first as an assistant coach at Benedictine in Richmond, then taking the reigns as head coach of his alma mater, Lake Howell High School, in Winter Park, Fla. for the 2015-16 season.

“I learned a lot just being thrown into the fire with a great group of kids,” said Rodriguez of his first head coaching gig.

The experience helped him evolve as he transitioned off the court and onto the sidelines.

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