Yeah the dreaded five post-game thoughts are back. Because if I don’t do this now, we’ll be at least two or three games into the future (“The future, Conan?”) before I come back to this one. So enjoy!
1.) For a really good first-hand take on the game, check out the report from your good friend and mine, Mike Litos, whose southern bias (i.e. he gets his mail in Virginia) allowed him to go to last night’s tilt.
1b.) Unlike Monday night, when the Flying Dutchmen trailed by between three and 11 points in the nine minutes leading up to their dramatic comeback against James Madison, it never felt as if the Dutchmen were really in this one after VCU ended the first half on a 15-5 run to take a 48-33 lead. The Dutchmen never got closer than 13 in the second half and they had one “run” of more than five points (a 7-0 surge after the Rams took their biggest lead of the game at 77-55). VCU was just too deep and too clutch for the Dutchmen. The Rams mounted their half-ending run with Joey Rodriguez and Jamie Skeen on the bench with two fouls and won going away even though Rodriguez had just three points one game after he poured in 28. That’s deep. And the game was properly summed up on VCU’s first shot of the second half, when Ed Nixon drained a 3-pointer as he was falling out of bounds with the shot clock expiring. It sure seemed as if the Rams shot better than 44 percent overall and 41 percent from beyond the arc.
2.) That said, there was encouragement to be found in this loss and the respectable margin of defeat. VCU has won 21 in a row at the Siegel Center, so there’s no shame in losing to the Rams there. There were a few times in the second half when the game threatened to get Iona-level ugly, but it never happened. And the Dutchmen lost by just 15 on a night in which Mike Moore (who scored seven points as his streak of games with double-digit points ended at 11) and David Imes (two points and two rebounds) were almost invisible and in which Brad Kelleher and Shemiye McLendon combined to shoot 1-of-8 from 3-point land. In addition, the Dutchmen have responded well to tough and/or lopsided losses this year—most notably the defeats at the hands of Western Kentucky and Iona—and rest assured Mo Cassara will come up with ways to combat the Rams if there’s a rematch to be had in the CAA Tournament. By then, hopefully Dwan McMillan will be back to provide more depth, particularly on defense.
3.) Of course, with Moore and Imes silenced and Greg Washington relegated to the bench most of the second half due to foul trouble, the Dutchmen’s need for two complementary scorers to Charles Jenkins was magnified. Jenkins had his usual big boxscore (20 points on 8-of-17 shooting with five assists, four rebounds and one steal) but Nixon draped him in the second half, when Jenkins was limited to five points on 2-of-5 shooting. Washington was outstanding when he was in the game (15 points on 7-of-11 shooting with six rebounds) but the rest of the Dutchmen had just 32 points on 11-of-29 shooting. Moore had just seven shots, and ignore the stat in the next sentence, because the Dutchmen can’t win when he doesn’t get plenty of looks. The loss dropped the Dutchmen to 5-1 in games in which Moore takes less than 10 shots (wins over Farmingdale State, Wagner, Rider, George Mason and Northeastern).
4.) It was probably as much out of necessity on Cassara’s part as a desire to reward Yves Jules for his game-saving steal in the waning seconds of regulation Monday, but Jules was impressive in taking advantage of his most playing time in more than three weeks. Jules scored six points—the first time this season he’s scored more than one basket against a Division I opponent—while playing his usual strong defense in 13 minutes, his most since he played 14 against George Mason Jan. 5.
5.) McLendon really continues to impress. He got off to a slow start and seemed a bit flustered in the first half, but he adjusted to the faster pace and atmosphere and quietly had a solid game (eight points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) even though he was just 1-of-3 from 3-point land. He also played 26 minutes, the fifth straight game in which he’s played at least 25 minutes and the 10th time in his last 11 games he’s played 20 or more minutes. Cassara found a keeper with McLendon, whose only Division I scholarship offer was to Hofstra.
3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. VCU, 1/27)
3: Charles Jenkins
2: Greg Washington
1: Shemiye McLendon
Charles Jenkins 53
Mike Moore 24
Greg Washington 21
David Imes 14
Dwan McMillan 5
Shemiye McLendon 4
Brad Kelleher 3
Yves Jules 1
Stephen Nwaukoni 1