VCU Rams1

Sophomore Isis Thorpe scored a season-high 22 points in VCU's 81-59 win over High Point Thursday.

Sophomore Isis Thorpe scored a season-high 22 points in VCU’s 81-59 win over High Point Thursday.

RICHMOND, Va. – It’s a new year with a new coach and a new system, but Isis Thorpe started to look like her old self in Thursday’s 81-59 win over High Point.

Thorpe, a slick-shooting sophomore guard, scored a season-high 22 points to lead the Rams (6-4). It was her fifth career 20-point performance. Thorpe knocked down 8-of-12 from the field, including a season-best 5-of-7 from 3-point range.

It was a return to form of sorts for Thorpe, who knocked down a team-best 74 threes as a freshman and averaged 12.3 points per game, but shot just 25 percent (19-of-75) from 3-point range in her final 11 games. She came into Thursday’s game averaging 9.1 points while shooting 33 percent (10-of-30) from beyond the arc.

Thorpe stroked her first three triples of the contest and mixed in timely pump-fakes and dribble drives on the way to her best scoring output in 33 games.

“It’s about time I started hitting some shots, so that felt really good today,” she said. “It was just a great win for all of us as a team. We finally got to a point where we’re up with a lead and twisted the knife instead of letting them come back, so that was really great game that we had today.”

It’s been a period of transition for the Reading, Pa. native. This season, Thorpe has been working to digest first-year Coach Beth O’Boyle’s playbook. While the Rams still aim to get in transition often, as they did under former Coach Marlene Stollings, VCU’s halfcourt sets are different this season.

“Last year it was more of, I just came off of screens and shot the ball. This year it’s more of, you’re creating your own play, so what’s been really hard for me has been analyzing the floor and taking good shot and reading the defense and stuff,” Thorpe said.

“It’s hard because last year, everything was really structured; We came off plays, we did this. We did that. This year, okay, you come off the screen, you just create, so, really just having an IQ, feeling the space and stuff was really hard for me because this is my first year learning how to just read, rather than just having a coach go, ‘You go there, you go there.’ I’m very excited about it though, because I want to learn that.”

“I think a big thing is when you’re learning a new system, you have a whole bunch of new players out there that are getting shots and we don’t really have a player that’s getting doubled, so it’s just that you’ve got…it’s a quicker decision, it’s a quicker time to get it off, and I think Isis is really getting comfortable in that and where she can attack space and get to a good shot,” O’Boyle said. “But I think she’s been practicing well and that’s a big part of it.”

If Thorpe is indeed finding comfort within O’Boyle’s system, it comes at a good time. During the first ten games of the season, the Rams have worked to adjust to O’Boyle’s style of play and establish their roles. Up to this point, VCU has not found a “go-to” scorer. Instead, the Rams have used a balanced attack this season, and five players were averaging better than seven points per game entering Thursday’s action. None of those five was averaging 10 points per game.

While balance is important, so too is having a player in which a coach can place trust when the game is on the line. Thorpe, likely VCU’s most skilled offensive player, could become that person.

“I feel like everybody can score, but I would love to be the go-to player,” Thorpe said Thursday. “But I wouldn’t be like, everything’s relying on me, so that’s what is a really big difference from last year.”

This year is the first time in several seasons that Rams didn’t open the year with an established offensive star. The past two seasons, that responsibility fell on Robyn Parks, who led the Atlantic 10 Conference in scoring and rebounding last year.

“I think it always helps,” O’Boyle said of finding a “go-to” player on offense. “Honestly, I think we have a young team and players out on the floor are getting minutes and shots that they haven’t gotten before, and now as they get more experience game after game, practice after practice, I think you’ll start seeing their percentages go up. But ideally when you have a player go for 22 each day, that’s a good thing.”