Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Night of Havoc in Brooklyn (Recap of Boston College vs. VCU)

After having watched St John's defeat Seton Hall at Carnesecca Arena in the first Big East Women's Basketball Conference game for both teams,  my friend Tony Terentieff (aka Tieff), my color analyst, aka my older son Matthew and I headed off to Mineola train station to take a train ride to Atlantic Terminal to see the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival Tripleheader at the Barclays Center.

We got there at halftime of the Tulane-Kansas State game, the second game of the holiday hoops trifecta.  After grabbing dinner at the Brooklyn Burger concessions stand, we headed to our seats in Section 20, Row 17.   Shortly after we got there, once again we ran into my good friend, Jaden Daly, who just got there himself after covering the St John's-Seton Hall game as well.  Jaden was kind enough to let me charge my iPhone after I stupidly left my car charger in my car back in Levittown at my in-laws' house. 

Not too long after, John Templon of Big Apple Buckets joined us and we had a reunion of local New York basketball bloggers.  It was a good talk about local metro NYC area basketball, specifically NEC, MAAC and Ivy League basketball as John and Jaden traded their scheduled game coverage for the next few weeks.  I just sat and admired as they talked about the games they were planning to cover, as I miss being able to cover several New York games in a week.  We also talked about how ridiculously good Stony Brook's Jameel Warney is and whether the Ivy can be a two bid conference this season (Harvard and Princeton).  

After Jaden and John said their goodbyes to go cover the remaining twenty minutes of the Tulane game as well as the BC-VCU game,  Matthew, Tieff and I watched the second half of the Green Wave-Wildcats game.  Tulane was playing in its second Winter Hoops Festival in a row, having routed Hofstra last year.  This year, the Green Wave had scored a whopping ten points in the first half.    Tulane scored the first five points of the second half to cut the lead to thirteen, 28-15, as they finally figured out that they should drive the lane against the Wildcats.   

Alas, Kansas State was toying with Tulane, as the Wildcats outscored the Green Wave 44-26 the rest of the second half to win convincingly 72-41.   Shane Southwell, a local kid from Harlem that former K-State coach Frank Martin recruited to Manhattan, Kansas, returned to Brooklyn to lead the Wildcats with 19 points.  Southwell hit five of nine shots from beyond the arc as Kansas State shot twelve of twenty seven from three point land.  The Wildcats also had nineteen assists and thirteen steals.

The lone hightlight for the Green Wave fans in our section was that after much chanting, seldom used, senior guard Max Keenan entered the game late for Tulane.   Most likely, his fans were family and they were excited after Keenan fired an open look three in the last minute of the game.   Much to his fans' dismay, Keenan's shot was slightly off the mark.   Kansas State junior guard Shane Meyer, also seldom used, hit a pretty up and under layup and one, much to the delight of the Wildcats' bench.  Meyer hit the free throw to make the final score margin thirty one points.   It was the most points Meyer had scored in a game in his three year career at Kansas State.

During the break between games,  Tieff, Matthew and I went to get dessert.  There is a Junior's Cheesecake/Blue Marble Custard concession stand at Barclay's.  Tieff wanted the custard, but not having Junior's cheesecake in ages,  I had the Devil's Food Cheesecake.  I think I won out on the dessert match-up.

I didn't see the St John's- Columbia game, but having seen Tulane-Kansas State, it looked like VCU brought the only pep band.  But if you're going to have only one pep band play at the Winter Hoops Festival, you might as well have THE PEP BAND to play at the tripleheader.  Known as "The Peppas", the VCU pep band is simply the best college basketball pep band in the country (with George Mason's pep band a close second).   On the evening, the Peppas started with Toto's "Africa", did an amazing version of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and of course, "You Don't Want to Go To War", along with a lot of other great versions of songs.

The Rams entered the game 10-3 on the season, which certainly is a solid record.  But VCU had entered the season nationally ranked and a lot is expected of the Rams this season.   Much of it is due to their talent and experience, as well as the fact that the Rams have been very successful the past three NCAA Tournaments under Shaka Smart.   Also, the expectations are based on their unique, aggressive press defense, known as "Havoc".  Entering the game, VCU was first in the country in steals, averaging over twelve steals per game.  The Rams also entered the game averaging +7.8 in turnover margin.  The problem for VCU has been taking advantage of that turnover margins, as they are eleventh in the A-10 in shooting percentage at 42.4 percent.

On the other hand, Boston College had entered the game struggling at 4-8.   Steve Donahue, who led Cornell to three straight Ivy League Championships and a Sweet 16 in 2010, is in his fourth season as head coach of the Eagles.  In his first season, Donahue led BC to a second round NIT appearance, but it has been downhill since with a 9-22 record in 2011-12 and 16-17 last season. 

Early on in the game, both teams struggled to score points.  Due to "Havoc", Boston College kept turning the ball over.  However, VCU could not take advantage due to poor shooting and poor shot selection.  At one point, Mike Litos noted that the Rams has forced ten turnovers but only scored five points on those turnovers.  This was due to VCU taking too many three pointers.  The Rams were three of fifteen in the first half from beyond the arc.

The Eagles jumped out to an 8-3 lead early.  After a quick VCU timeout, the Rams responded with a 7-0 spurt to take a 10-8 lead.  BC tied it up at ten on another Ryan Anderson dunk, his third of the game, all of those came about when the Eagles were able to break the press.  After eight and a half minutes, the game was tied at ten.  The bright side was that both teams had already matched Tulane's output for the entire first half of their game.

The rest of the first half would be mini spurts.  VCU would go on a 6-0 mini spurt to take a 16-10 lead. BC responded with a 7-0 run to take a 17-16 advantage.  But the Rams would score the last six points to enter the half up 22-17.

At halftime, I met up with my friend and VCU's most famous fan, Chris "Pav" Crowley.   As I noted to DefiantlyDutch in a tweet, Pav can be seen everywhere with his Ram horns.   Pav got his nickname due to his terrific opera voice and his Pavarotti looks.   It was good catching up with him and we got this picture together.  Pav hilariously noted later in a tweet that the backdrop of our picture was the best photobomb ever.  

Coach Smart must have said something to his team at halftime, because the Rams went inside in the second half.  In the first half, Rams forwards Treveon Graham and Juvante Reddic, the two leading scorers for VCU, combined for only four points.  In the first few minutes of the second half, Graham had two layups and Reddic added another during a 11-4 spurt to put the Rams up 33-21.  

After the BC got within nine points, 35-26,  VCU went on a 14-1 run over the span of three minutes.  Reddic's layup and put the Rams up twenty points.  Then Melvin Johnson forced the Eagles's sixth turnover of the second half and his layup capped the run to put VCU up 49-27 with 10:45 left in the game.  

It was clear before the start of the game that the majority of fans that were left in the building were wearing the gold and black of VCU.   And with the huge run by the Rams, their fans turned the Barclays Center into the Richmond Coliseum during VCU's days in the CAA Tournament.  And things got worse for the few BC fans left in attendance when Graham buried a three pointer to put the Rams up twenty six, 65-39 with four and a half minutes left in the game.  It was clearly evident to me that VCU had the superior talent, athleticism and aggressiveness over an ACC team.  It was only two seasons ago that the Rams were still in the CAA.

All that was left was both teams clearing their benches and an 11-4 Eagles' game ending spurt to make the game ending margin closer than it was for a good part of the second half.   The Peppas played a set to close out the festivities and a VCU 69-50 win.  

Reddic (14 points) and Graham (13 points) combined for 23 second half points.  Rob Brandenburg added 13 points and Melvin Johnson had 12 points for the Rams.  VCU had 11 steals, forced 23 BC turnovers, and held the Eagles to 38 percent shooting, including 3 of 18 from beyond the arc.

Oliver Hanlan led BC and all scorers with 17 points.  Anderson added 13 points for the Eagles.  BC is now headed into ACC play with a 4-9 record.   VCU starts their A-10 season with an 11-3 record.

As Matthew, Tieff and I headed out of the Barclays Center, we were glad in the fact that for the second year in a row, we got to see multiple college basketball games on a cold late December day.  Nothing warms you up during the holiday season like seeing college basketball and reuniting with good friends. 

And considering we saw VCU, there's also nothing like a little Havoc during the holiday season.  

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