“Havoc” is the style of play that Shaka Smart has embedded into the Virginia Commonwealth Rams as he has captured the college basketball scene with the fast, frenetic style that doesn’t allow offenses to breathe. On the flip side, a healthy serving of “Havoc” has the mentality of a sprinter on a 94-foot track.
It’s a mentality too as the Rams were challenged as well on Saturday night by a loud, raucous crowd in Charlotte’s Halton Arena. When 40 minutes had passed, VCU took a 68-61 win in another tough A-10 venue.
Shaka Smart has led VCU to a 7-1 road record. The mental toughness from “Havoc” should do the Rams well as we get to the postseason.Credit: VCU Athletics
“At home you get energy from crowd, and I think it speaks for these guys,” said Smart after VCU started the second half with seven points on it’s first three possessions to take the upper hand at 41-32, “Our players get a lot of energy from our fans. This is a terrific crowd here. It was a challenge to make sure that we took care of what we could control and not listen to what everyone was saying behind our bench.”
Charlotte played a hard-nosed game , but with that, VCU matched the 49ers’ intensity and controlled the hustle stats in the game which readily decided the outcome. The Rams netted 23 points off of 17 49ers’ turnovers and forced the Niners into seven miscues on their first 12 possessions of the second half. Juvonte Reddic and Rob Brandenburg took control of those first eight minutes as they scored eight of the Rams’ 13 points to up the lead to 47-36.
“We want to get people playing faster than they want to play and get them against pressure for 94 feet,” commented Smart, “Pierria Henry and Denzel Ingram are very good guards. Charlotte turned it over 17 times. That’s less than what we average, but seven more than what we had.”
The Rams’ style had Charlotte speeded up just like planned. A major problem for the 49ers was going 12-of-22 from the line after VCU was whistled for 22 fouls. As nine Rams once again played double figures in minutes, Smart’s ability to push foul numbers is like playing a slot machine in Vegas – use all your tokens and eventually, you will be in the plus category.
This was as physical of a basketball game as we’ve been part of in a while,” said Smart, who made his first trip into Charlotte with his Rams, ”We told our guys all week long that we had to be ready physically to match up. It’s pretty amazing we won and were outrebounded by 12, but I liked the way we defended and way we kept the heat on.”
The 49ers were down 10 midway through the first half, but hit a 10-0 run to tie the game at 22. While they never grabbed the lead, they were able to keep the heat on VCU’s defense with their dribble-penetration and ability to get into the lane. VCU punctuated it’s definition of basketball being a 40-minute experience when Darius Theus penetrated right, faded left, netted the shot and was fouled with 0:00.1 seconds remaining in the first half. He made the free throw and VCU took a 34-28 lead and felt a huge momentum surge going into the second half.
“They didn’t shoot a three the whole half,” noted Smart, “They are a very good driving and post up team. Between those two things, they put us on our heels. They were aggressors and we were more passive at that point. Darius’s three gave us momentum and I liked the way we started the second half.”
As the Rams go down the stretch, they still have trips to St. Louis, Xavier, and Temple. They are 7-1 thanks to the mentality of the “Havoc” style. Smart acknowledges every opponent and convinces his squad that every game is a “daunting” task.
“Tonight was daunting,” he said, “We won’t be in a much more hostile environment than this. We focus on the present. We had a week to prepare for Charlotte and we worked on what we can do to get better as a team as a team as well.”
- Ken Cross
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