SECOND CHANCES, JOHNSON’S RETURN TO FORM FUEL SECOND SEASON

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Melvin Johnson hit 4-of-7 three-pointers and scored 16 points to help lift VCU past Fordham Thursday.

Melvin Johnson hit 4-of-7 three-pointers and scored 16 points to help lift VCU past Fordham Thursday.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – An unfortunate consequence of poor shooting is the tendency to worry about more poor shooting. The key to breaking out, Melvin Johnson believes, isn’t more thinking, but less.

Johnson, who has battled shooting slumps this season, looked confident and comfortable Thursday as he stroked 5-of-8 shots, including 4-of-7 from three, to help pull fifth-seeded VCU to a 63-57 win over 12th-seeded Fordham in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament at the Barclays Center.

In his last two games, Johnson is 7-of-13 from three. He finished with 16 points Thursday and hit a critical trey with 2:31 remaining as VCU kept a persistent Fordham at bay.

His revival comes at a good time for VCU, which is looking to break out of a shooting funk, and needs scoring from any player not named Treveon Graham. As a whole, the Rams (23-9) didn’t find their shooting stroke Thursday. VCU shot .301 (18-of-59) from the floor, a fact which kept Fordham (10-21) knocking at its door for 39 minutes. But Johnson and Graham ultimately provided just enough baskets and VCU was able to track down enough of its misses to secure the victory.

The Black & Gold grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and turned those into an 18-12 advantage in second chance points. It wasn’t pretty, but it was enough.

The win sets up a third meeting this season with rival Richmond Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Barclays.

Johnson, a Bronx native playing in front of friends and family, is VCU’s most prolific 3-point shooter. But when shots stopped falling for him earlier this season, it got to him. The more he obsessed over missed shots, the more he missed them. He says it took a fresh perspective to help the ball start finding the bottom of the basket.

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FORDHAM POSTGAME

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JUSTIN TILLMAN BLOCKED SHOT

VCU ALUMNI IN THE BIG APPLE

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We had another great time Wednesday night in Tribeca with the VCU Alumni Association. It was a great opportunity to rally the VCU faithful in the New York area and enjoy some great views of the city.

 

THE PEPPAS IN TIMES SQUARE

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We had a great time with The Peppas, the Gold Rush Dancers and the VCU Cheer squads Thursday morning in Times Square. They sure know how to draw a crowd. Stay tuned to the blog for a video from today shortly. In the meantime, here’s a few shots from Thursday’s performance.

SHAKA SMART MEDIA MINUTES

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Shaka Smart meets with the media prior to VCU’s departure for the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament in Brooklyn, New York.

ATLANTIC 10 TOURNAMENT BRACKET

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VCU TOPS MASON ON SENIOR NIGHT: THE VIDEO RUNDOWN

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First, let’s lead off with a pretty cool video. VCU fan Chris Crowley sang the National Anthem last night and asked the Siegel Center crowd to sing along with him. By the end, Crowley lowers his mic as the crowd sings in unison. It was a night of “family”. VCU hosted its annual Alumni Day, where scores of former players like Calvin Duncan, Kendrick Warren, Joey Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson, Bradford Burgess and others returned to celebrate the VCU Basketball fraternity. It was also Senior Night, where the Rams paid tribute to Briante Weber, Treveon Graham and Jarred Guest. The whole game felt like an evening with friends.

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HIGHLIGHTS

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MO ALIE-COX JUST DUNKING ON DUDES

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VCU SENIOR TRIBUTE 

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VCU PLAYER POSTGAME

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SHAKA SMART POSTGAME

RAMS LOOK TO THE PAST TO MOVE AHEAD

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VCU forced 24 turnovers in a 71-60 win over George Mason Saturday.

VCU forced 24 turnovers in a 71-60 win over George Mason Saturday.

RICHMOND, Va. – When you begin to pick up the pieces, you’ve got to start somewhere. For VCU, which suffered a humbling loss at Davidson on Thursday, that place was two years ago. To move forward, the Rams had to look back momentarily.

On Saturday, it helped produce an imperfect 71-60 win over George Mason in VCU’s regular season finale at the Verizon Wireless Arena. It was a start.

Working with a short turnaround following Thursday night’s 82-55 loss at Davidson, VCU Coach Shaka Smart showed his team clips from an 86-68 win over UMass on Feb. 14, 2012.

Those clips were not selected at random. That game featured a UMass squad in the midst of its best season in years. They were confident and fun. At the time, it was an A-10 must-watch game. VCU tightened its grip that night and forced 24 turnovers in a fan friendly, wide-open, 79-possession gem.

“Coach just reminded us of how VCU plays, the VCU way, and he showed us a clip of two years ago in the A-10 against UMass, the style of play and how the game was going,” said sophomore Mo Alie-Cox, who finished with 11 points. “So that really put a reminder in our heads about how we should play and an attacking mindset, and that’s what we really tried to do here today. “

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JEQUAN LEWIS MAKES A POINT

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Sophomore JeQuan Lewis is averaging 12.9 points and 3.0 assists per game since Briante Weber's season-ending injury.

Sophomore JeQuan Lewis is averaging 12.9 points and 3.0 assists per game since Briante Weber’s season-ending injury.

RICHMOND, Va. – JeQuan Lewis may be one of the smallest Rams, but he’s had to fill the biggest shoes of late.

Lewis, a 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard from Dickson, Tennessee, has taken over the role of starting point guard from senior star Briante Weber, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 31.

Weber’s absence created a void both material and immaterial. A larger-than-life personality, Weber’s energy and enthusiasm have inspired the Rams throughout his four-year career. On the floor, he was a defensive savant and a steady director of VCU’s up-tempo offense.

The injury was a blow, but Lewis has steadied the Rams at the point. VCU did lose back-to-back close games to St. Bonaventure and La Salle – the Rams were also without leading scorer Treveon Graham in those contests – but Lewis has helped keep the team from veering wildly off course.

In eight games since Weber’s injury, Lewis is second on the team in scoring (12.9 ppg) and leads the Rams in assists (3.0 apg) and steals (2.3 spg). It’s nothing team insiders didn’t believe was within Lewis’ reach, but it’s clear to VCU Coach Shaka Smart that Weber’s injury sped up the sophomore’s maturation process.

“He’s accepted the responsibility that comes with being the starting point guard,” Smart said.

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TALE OF THREE CITIES; DANIELS ON THE MOVE IN 2ND NBA SEASON

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VCU alum Troy Daniels is averaging 2.7 points and shooting .317 from 3-point range this season.

VCU alum Troy Daniels is averaging 2.7 points and shooting .317 from 3-point range this season.

Troy Daniels is technically a Houston resident – he has a town home there – but he’s officially been living out of a suitcase the past couple of months.

It’s been a whirlwind second NBA season for the former VCU sharpshooter. Daniels, briefly a playoff hero for the Houston Rockets last season, has been traded twice since December. Despite the shuffling of zip codes, Daniels is still happy to be wearing in NBA uniform, regardless of where the team is located.

“It’s fun to even be considered by an NBA team, and I just appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given,” he says.

For now, and presumably for the near future, he’s a Charlotte Hornet, but he also thought he’d be a Houston Rocket for a while, until the team dealt him to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Dec. 19. Before he’d even had time to pick out a favorite grocery store, he and teammate Mo Williams were traded to Charlotte on Feb 10.

It’s actually Daniels’ second tour of duty with the Hornets. Daniels played for the organization’s summer league team and earned a training camp invite as an undrafted free agent in 2013.

The irony is that Charlotte, then known as the Bobcats, cut Daniels, which actually may have helped launch his NBA career. He was quickly signed by Houston, which stashed him with its Rio Grande D-League team. Daniels flourished in Rio Grande’s revolutionary, 3-point-heavy system, as the Roanoke, Virginia native set a D-League single-season record for threes.

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