ICYMI: RAMS TOP BONA FOR 10TH STRAIGHT VICTORY

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NIGHT OF 1,000 DUNKS…

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In case you missed it, VCU dunked all over Fordham Wednesday night. VCU did pretty much whatever it wanted for 40 minutes on the way to an 88-54 victory. As it turns out, what VCU wanted to do was dunk, often.

Once you’re done with the dunks, you can digest this other good stuff. First, there’s a sitdown with Gerron Scissum, as well as a fun atmosphere piece.

POSTGAME
Sorry guys, the audio is pretty hot in these. We’ll work with our tech team on that.

NOTEBOOK: 2015 BLACK AND GOLD GAME NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS

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Current VCU players and alumni pose prior to Saturday’s Black and Gold Game.

RICHMOND, Va. – Justin Tillman repeatedly dunked at Saturday night’s Black and Gold Game like a man trying to scare the 2015-16 season to life. Mission accomplished.

Tillman provided one of the most powerful performances in VCU’s annual intrasquad scrimmage with 20 points, including six dunks, and 10 rebounds to lead the Black team to an 85-76 win before 5,223 at the Siegel Center.

It can be difficult to assess the value of players’ performances in games like this one, but Tillman dared people to notice with a series of vicious slams. The sophomore forward averaged 3.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game last season, but new VCU Coach Will Wade can probably envision an uptick in Tillman’s numbers if he continues with such high-voltage efforts.

“I thought Tillman was great. He’s been phenomenal in practice,” Wade said. “His activity level was through the roof. He was tremendous, and he’s been that way in practice. He’s been an energy guy, an activity guy and that certainly showed today.”

Tillman’s presence has always been a flashy one, with his tall, dyed afro and his highlight reel dunks.

“He dunks everything, and I love that,” Wade said. “I worry about the backboards in the Development Center sometimes. He dunks everything. I love it, though. He’s a player.”

Tillman should figure prominently in Wade’s rotation, given the departure of Treveon Graham – who garnered the bulk of VCU’s minutes at power forward last season – and the coach’s emphasis on post play. You can expect to see more traditional lineups featuring two post players this season under Wade than in recent years.

Tillman played the 4-spot Saturday alongside center Mo Alie-Cox, and the two combined for 35 points and 18 rebounds. One could certainly imagine Wade pairing those two together down low on a regular basis.

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NO, YOU WILL NOT BE GOING BASELINE ON JUSTIN TILLMAN

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The only thing that would make this highlight better would be a special effects explosion, because Justin Tillman blocked the world out of Saint Louis’ Ash Yacoubou on this play. If this happened to me, I would fake an injury and go back to the lockerroom and curl up in a ball.

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In other news, here are tonight’s pressers.

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EDIT: BONUS AWESOME VIDEO
Here is VCU’s bench reacting to Torey Burston’s first career basket, a 3-pointer, no less.

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

RAMS FIND SOMETHING IN RESERVE, TOP UNI 93-87

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Sophomore Doug Brooks hit a critical 3-pointer in double overtime Saturday.

Sophomore Doug Brooks hit a critical 3-pointer in double overtime Saturday.

RICHMOND, Va. – The shot you’ll remember will be Treveon Graham’s clutch fadeaway 3-pointer in the second overtime. That dramatic shot with 2:14 left finally sent 23rd-ranked Northern Iowa to the ropes, but it was the work of Graham’s supporting cast that kept the Rams fighting long enough to pull out a heart-pounding 93-87 win over the Panthers at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center Saturday.

Graham, VCU’s leading scorer and a legitimate All-America candidate, knocked down a pair of free throws with seconds remaining and finished with a team-high 21 points and 11 rebounds. Graham put in yeoman’s work Saturday night, but it was what he didn’t have to do that was notable about VCU’s win.

Especially on offense, the Rams have been a two-man show of late between Graham and Melvin Johnson. But against the previously unbeaten Panthers (9-1), VCU received points from 11 different players. The Rams did so by moving the ball. VCU assisted on 20 of its 33 field goals Saturday night.

Those numbers are in stark contrast to the last three games, when Johnson and Graham accounted for 61 percent of the Rams’ scoring. Against UNI, that duo scored just 35 percent (33 of 93) of VCU’s points. The Rams’ bench provided 31 points, the second-highest total all season. Only the 64 bench points VCU scored in a runaway rout of overmatched Maryland-Eastern Shore earlier this season topped Saturday’s reserve output.

“Our bench production is what won us the game,” VCU Coach Shaka Smart said afterwards. “Our bench was better than it has been earlier in the year. We still have to keep improving, but today was a step in the right direction.”

Earlier in the week, Smart commented on VCU’s need to find additional scoring options to Graham and Johnson, and the Rams responded. The contributions came from everywhere.

Touted freshman Terry Larrier, mired in a shooting slump, scored nine points in nine minutes. Larrier hit his final two 3-point attempts to snap out of a 1-of-12 slump from beyond the arc.

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MBB PHOTO DAY: AN IPHONE PREVIEW

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Disclaimer: These photos were taken on a late-model iPhone by an untrained photographer (me) in occasionally sub-standard lighting. We had actual real photographers on site to capture actual professional photos. You’ll see those (probably) Wednesday. This is just a behind-the-scenes preview.

 

Shooting the men's intro video #LetsGoVCU

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Mo Alie-Cox picks his one-on-one match-up. #LetsGoVCU

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BLACK & GOLD SCRIMMAGE OBSERVATIONS

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Melvin Johnson (center) led all scorers with 26 points in Sunday's scrimmage.

Melvin Johnson (center) led all scorers with 26 points in Sunday’s scrimmage.

RICHMOND, Va. – It certainly didn’t feel like a scrimmage, what with the stands full of black and gold-clad fans, the pep band in mid-season, bar-raising form, and players crashing into the benches for loose balls.

VCU Coach Shaka Smart put his 2014-15 team on display Sunday night in the annual intra-squad Black and Gold Scrimmage at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. A crowd of 4,855 poured in to have a look, and they likely came away with plenty to talk about – and that’s without even talking about the basketball. It was an event with regular-season appeal, two weeks early.

On the floor, fans were treated to an up-and-down pace and some new faces, as well as a few familiar players who were anything but old hat.

Here are a few takeaways from the game, a 73-63 win for the Gold team, led by JeQuan Lewis and Briante Weber.

1-VCU fans are ridiculous in the best way possible. Much was made of last year’s Black and Gold Scrimmage audience of nearly 3,200. That’s pretty impressive for a intra-squad scrimmage. The first two schools I worked at in college athletics would’ve changed their mascots to the Fightin’ CPAs for a REGULAR SEASON crowd of 3,200 at one of their games. But 4,800? Are you serious? That’s better than the average attendance of seven Atlantic 10 Conference schools last year and just a shade below George Mason’s average crowd from 2013-14.

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