MEN'S BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK - NOV. 29TH
By Scott Day
HAVOC IS HAPPENING
While Coach Smart and his staff still want the defense to improve upon giving up 74.2 points per game, the "Wreaking Havoc" part of the defense has been pretty evident over the first five games of the season.
The Rams currently rank first in the CAA in turnovers forced at 18.2 per game and first in opponent's turnover rate at 27% of the possessions. On the opposite side, VCU is second with just 12.8 turnovers per game, while its turnover rate of just 16.6% of their possessions tops the league.
Even without former big man Larry Sanders, the Black & Gold are averaging 5.8 blocks per game, which leads the CAA and ranks 21st in the country.
Part of "Havoc" includes creating open shots for other teammates and the Rams have done just that, dishing out 19.2 assists per game to lead the league and rank sixth in the country. Efficiency has also been big for the Black & Gold with a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio, which also leads the CAA and ranks 13th in the nation.
A GOOD HELPING OF HINTON
While most of the heavy lifting during the Rams' stay in New York was done by the usual suspects, redshirt sophomore David Hinton (pictured, right) played a vital role in the win over UCLA.
Hinton, a native of Winston-Salem, N.C., entered the game against the Bruins at the 12:51 mark of the first half and played sound defensively against a UCLA frontcourt that included McDonald's All-American Josh Smith and All Pac-10 candidate Reeves Nelson.
"David is a guy who continually brings a hard work ethic and focus to practice," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "I'm really pleased with the effort he gave us against UCLA and he'll definitely have a chance to play an even bigger role as the season moves forward."
Entering the contest against the Bruins, Hinton had tallied just two career field goals and four points. In six minutes against UCLA, he went 2-for-2 from the field with four points and a block.
UPDATE FROM THE INFIRMARY
Basketball seasons last over five months and over that span there are always bumps and bruises. The Rams felt that in New York with senior guards Joey Rodriguez and Ed Nixon (pictured left) both missing some game time during the two games at Madison Square Garden.
Rodriguez was limited during his 28 minutes against 24th-ranked Tennessee after re-aggravating an ankle injury that kept him out of the exhibition contest against Virginia Union on Nov. 4. After receiving full treatment on Thursday and Friday morning, the senior point guard played 33 minutes against UCLA on Friday.
Nixon suffered nearly the same injury, rolling an ankle against the Bruins on Friday, which limited him to just 17 minutes.
After getting some rest on Saturday and Sunday, both guards will be ready to go in their return to the home state of Florida on Wednesday evening against the University of South Florida.
BATTLING THE BIG BOYS
While being a high-ranking "mid-major" can have its perks, scheduling can be difficult because many of the BCS schools don't want to play the potential "giant killers" as some are called.
VCU faces a stretch that could significantly help its standing when it comes postseason tournament time. Including Wednesday's showdown with South Florida of the Big East, the Rams will play four straight BCS schools, a feat that will be occurring for the first time in school history.
With wins over Wake Forest (ACC) and UCLA (Pac-10) and a narrow defeat to SEC power Tennessee, the Black & Gold have held their own against the "big boys" of college basketball.
During the Shaka Smart regime, the Rams are 3-1 against the BCS schools with wins over UCLA, Oklahoma and Wake Forest.
While the current members of the VCU basketball squad was making a name for itself at Madison Square Garden, their former teammate was making big strides in the NBA with Larry Sanders (pictured right) enjoying a coming out party over the past week with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Entering this past week, Sanders' career high in minutes was just 11, but thanks to hard work and some injuries to the Bucks frontcourt, the former Ram has averaged over 26 minutes a game over the past three contests.
The Fort Pierce, Fla. native poured in a career-high 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting in his first career start against the Bobcats on Nov. 27. That came after back-to-back eight point outings in road losses at Detroit and Cleveland.
"Of course we'd love to give him more time to get acclimated to the league, but for right now he's our best option and has worked hard to gain this opportunity," Head Coach Scott Skiles said. "He's still got a long way to go, but we're happy with what we've seen from him lately."