SHAKA SMART MEDIA MINUTES (DEC. 18)

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Shaka Smart talks Cincinnati and reflects on VCU’s win over Belmont.

BELMONT NOTEBOOK: TILLMAN ELECTRIFIES

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Freshman forward Justin Tillman finished with a career-high 16 points Tuesday.

Freshman forward Justin Tillman finished with a career-high 16 points Tuesday.

RICHMOND, Va. – Justin Tillman provided the lasting memory of VCU’s 78-51 rout of Belmont Tuesday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Siegel Center, but there was certainly more to his performance than one play.

Tillman, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Detroit, turned in his most impressive game of the young season with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including a pair of thunderous dunks. It was the second straight solid effort for Tillman, who is giving Coach Shaka Smart plenty of reasons to find him more minutes.

He came into Tuesday’s game averaging 3.9 points and 2.1 rebounds, but in his last two contests, Tillman has averaged 12.0 points, while shooting 11-of-13 from the field. His emergence, combined with the continued growth of sophomore Mo Alie-Cox, give VCU a reason to be optimistic about replacing the production of Juvonte Reddic in the post.

For Tillman, Tuesday’s effort was the culmination of a solid 10-game stretch to begin his college career. While each of VCU’s four freshmen has given the Rams’ encouraging moments, Tillman has been the most consistent. Smart believes that’s because Tillman keeps it simple.

“There is no pretense to Justin. There’s no nonsense. There’s no worrying about things that don’t matter,” Smart said. “He just plays, tries to follow the plan. If he makes a mistake, he’s hard on himself, but he doesn’t lose confidence. He just does what you want him to do. I think for that reason, in addition to his physical, gifts he’s going to be a terrific player here.”

Following Saturday’s double-overtime win over Northern Iowa, a game in which Tillman scored eight points, Smart said that the Detroit native had made the quickest adjustment from high school to college basketball of VCU’s touted recruiting class. It appears there are reasons for that. Despite his relative youth, Tillman says his approach is pretty straightforward.

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VIDEO: VCU BATTERS BELMONT BRUINS 78-51

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HIGHLIGHTS

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BELMONT COACH RICK BYRD

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VCU COACH SHAKA SMART

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VCU PLAYERS

JUSTIN TILLMAN DUNKS ON THE WORLD

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Here’s a Vine of Justin Tillman absolutely decimating the rim with a dunk on Belmont tonight. He finished with a career-high 16 points.

EDIT: Now with YouTube

SCOUTING BELMONT

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Former Ram Rodney Ashby dropped by VCU’s shootaround Tuesday afternoon to talk with Rams’ Assistant Coach David Cason to size up the Belmont Bruins.

VIDEO: VCU TOPS BELMONT

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HIGHLIGHTS

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POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE

VCU BECOMING A ‘BOARDING’ SCHOOL

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Junior forward Juvonte Reddic is averaging a career-high 8.6 rebounds per game this season.

Junior forward Juvonte Reddic is averaging a career-high 8.6 rebounds per game this season.

RICHMOND, Va. – It’s a simple game plan, really. Possess the ball more than the other guy and you’re going to win a lot of games. I don’t know of anyone who tracks time of possession in college basketball, but I feel confident VCU would be highly ranked.

That’s why the Rams (5-3) press teams to death. It’s to force hurried passes, poor decisions and white-knuckle moments for the opposition. It’s because it creates more scoring chances for the Rams and fewer for the other guy. It’s something VCU does exceedingly well.

Take Saturday’s 75-65 win over Belmont (5-2), for example. The Rams dissected the Bruins the last 13 minutes of the first half. Belmont turned it over 17 times during that stretch, and the Rams staged a 26-3 run as a result on the way to an 18-point halftime lead. Overall, the Rams scored 27 points off turnovers in the game.

As valuable as those extra opportunities were, it was the bonus possessions created by the Rams’ 16 offensive rebounds that were the difference in the game. VCU outscored Belmont 17-4 on second-chance points Saturday, many of them on point-blank putbacks around the basket.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected. The Bruins don’t have any regulars in their rotation over 6-foot-7. Belmont coach Rick Byrd tried 6-11, 275-pound widebody Chad Lang for about three minutes in the first half before the Rams threatened to run him off the floor on a stretcher.

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