MIKE RHOADES MEDIA MINUTES (DEC. 12)

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AGAINST TEXAS, RAMS CAME UP BIG

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Freshman Marcus Santos-Silva (8 points, 6 rebounds) was one of several VCU “bigs” who impressed Tuesday.

By Andy Lohman

Tuesday night was big in every way.

The return of Head Coach Shaka Smart was big. The man who took the Rams to the Final Four was back in the house that Havoc built. As he walked out before player intros, his ovation was big. A fan base with a cathartic recognition of a former leader. But it was nothing compared to how big the noise would get.

The Siegel Center was ear-splittingly loud, a volume that felt like it was going to cause seismic activity.

“The fans were crazy tonight, unbelievable,” senior forward Justin Tillman said. “It definitely brought us a lot of energy.”

The crowd was big. The 105th consecutive sellout was recorded at 7,637, but it would have been believable at 10,000. The arena pulsated with every swell of action, a black and gold orchestra conducted by a manic Mike Rhoades, who urged Ram Nation to get loud whenever the Longhorns reached the free throw line.

The match-up was big. VCU is a young team looking to turn the corner, and had a shot at a signature win for an NCAA Tournament resume. Texas is as big of an athletic department as you can get. A Big 12 school, from the state where everything is bigger, with a nine-figure revenue mark.

Finally, the matchups were big. Texas forward Mohamed Bamba stands at 6-foot-11 and is a likely lottery pick in the NBA Draft. VCU’s big men were up to the challenge, fueling a big comeback in the second half. In just over eight minutes, the Rams erased a 57-38 Texas lead and took a 63-62 advantage with 3:52 to play.

The man that hit the go-ahead three-pointer was VCU’s 6-foot-7 forward, Khris Lane.

“Oh man, it was amazing,” Lane said of the crowd when his three went down. “I said something to myself, but I couldn’t even hear what I said to myself because it was that loud.”

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LONG-RANGE SHOOTING OF WILLIAMS, TILLMAN TURNING INTO VALUABLE WEAPON FOR VCU

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By Andy Lohman

In tough games, you need your seniors to step up and lead by example

VCU got exactly that from Johnny Williams and Justin Tillman in Tuesday night’s 85-72 win over Appalachian State, with Williams pouring in 18 points and seven assists and Tillman contributing 21 points and six rebounds.

But what stood out for the two Rams seniors was not the fact that they made an impact, but the way in which they did so: the three-point shot.

Williams hit a career-high four 3-pointers on six attempts, and Tillman swished both of his shots from beyond the arc, complimenting a 6-for-9 night from the field overall.

In the three previous seasons, the two had combined for a nine percent 3-point field goal percentage. Tillman had missed all three of his career attempts, while Williams knocked down three out of 30 attempts.

But both put in the work this summer to expand their game, developing into more dynamic players.

“I was in the gym all the time working,” Williams said of his summer. “Ask anybody, late night I was passing up whatever things were going on just to get in the gym, just work on my game.”

“All my work in the summer,” Tillman said. “Working out two to three hours straight until all the GAs [graduate assistants] are tired and don’t want to work out anymore.”

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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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