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.

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.

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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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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TWO VIDEOS WORTH YOUR TIME

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VCU Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Rhoades spent three seasons at Rice University in Houston. He still owns a home there, and he and his family still have many friends in the city. It’s no surprise Rhoades has been heartbroken by the stories and images coming out of Houston, which has been ravaged by flooding produced by Hurricane Harvey. It’s one reason why Rhoades has begun mobilizing efforts to help out those in need in his former city. Learn more:

In lighter fare, JeQuan Lewis is preparing to chase his dream of playing in the NBA. He’ll be in camp with the Milwaukee Bucks this fall, fighting for a roster spot.

THE SECOND TIME AROUND

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VCU Men’s Basketball Associate Head Coach Jeremy Ballard returns to the Rams this season following stints at Illinois State and Pitt.

By Andy Lohman

After two years as an assistant at Illinois State, then Pittsburgh, VCU Men’s Basketball Associate Head Coach Jeremy Ballard is excited to be back in Richmond.

“I’m ecstatic. VCU is a special place,” Ballard said. “Richmond is a special place and I knew that the first time around. Being away for two years it’s emphasized more and the point is driven home that there aren’t many places like VCU out there.”

Ballard had served as an assistant coach with current head coach Mike Rhoades at VCU under Shaka Smart from 2012-15, helping guide the Rams to three straight NCAA tournament appearances, including the school’s first Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament championship in 2014-15.

A standout player at Colgate University, Ballard worked closely with shooting guard Troy Daniels in his first year as a coach at VCU. Daniels would go on to set a school record for three-pointers in a season (124) and currently plays for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Now Ballard has returned to a place and a school that he loves.

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MAINE MAN: MEET ISSAC VANN

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You feel like you know Issac Vann because he’s been at VCU for a year. But do you? Vann, who starred at Maine as a freshman, sat out last year after transferring. Now, on a team with just five returnees, he’s thrust to the forefront. So let’s get to know him a little.

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