Of the 12 players Rams head coach Anthony Grant (pictured above) used, 11 of them scored at least one point.
VCU’s offense was led by senior shooting guard Jamal Shuler, 6-3, 180, who scored 15 points and got two steals. He sank three of his four three-point attempts. Junior point guard Eric Maynor, 6-2, 175, scored 12 points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out five assists.
Asked to rate his performance for the night, Shuler, who hears “Shooo!” from the home crowd each time he hits a trey, said, “I’ll give it a B-minus.”
The other three starters for VCU were senior Wil Fameni, 6-7, 250, sophomore T.J. Gwynn, 6-4, 200, and senior Michael Anderson, 6-7, 205. All three turned in solid performances.
Grant seemed more pleased with his team’s defensive effort than its performance on offense. “We came out with good energy … offensively, we played in spurts.”
The Rams hit on a not-so-hot 42.3 percent of their shots from the field, while holding the Hawks to an absolutely frigid 34.5 percent. The hustling Rams harassed the Hawks into committing 24 turnovers; VCU blocked seven shots and stole the ball 10 times.
Coming off the bench freshman Larry Sanders, 6-9, 205, scored nine points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots in 16 minutes on the floor.
Of finally getting to play after all the practice, Sanders laughed and said softly, “It felt good.”
Freshman, Lance Kearse, 6-6, 225, scored seven points and pulled down two rebounds in just nine minutes of play. Yet another freshman, Joey Rodriguez, 5-10, 160, had four assists and two steals to go with his one point. Rodriguez, Kearse and Sanders are three of the six new players Grant recruited from Florida.
Grant shrugged, “Tonight we played a lot of guys, maybe we subbed too much.”
Last season’s glossy 28-7 VCU record won’t be easy to match, but this year’s squad is already showing the athletic potential of being capable of repeating as Colonial Athletic Association champions.
This year’s VCU team should be deeper, it may have more tools in the box. Whether, collectively, this new group will have as much heart as last year’s had remains to be seen.
VCU plays next in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Nov. 15 against Houston.
-- words and photo by F.T. Rea