VCU Rams basketball got their second victory on the young 2022-23 season with a 69-54 victory over the Morgan State Bears on Saturday night. Take a look at the three biggest takeaways from the game.
Late offensive surge sparked the victory
The VCU Rams’ defense wasn’t an issue in the game, it was more or less a combination of turnovers in the first half and then missed free throws in the second half. Down the stretch though, the Rams went on a much-needed run as they made 9 of their last 12 field goals to close the game out while holding the Bears to 1-of-11 shooting across the same span. VCU used a late 9-0 and outscored Morgan State 14-4 to finish the remaining 4:14 of regulation.
A 9-0 run with less than eight minutes left in the game extended the lead to 12 for the Rams at , their biggest of the game at the time. But the Bears brought things within six points with 6:03 remaining before turning things up a notch once again to close the game out.
While the game was close at halftime, VCU made their adjustments and went on to outscore the Bears 41-27 in the second half while shooting 70 percent (14-of-20) from the floor as a team. Brandon Johns Jr. led the way in scoring for the Rams with 15 points, 11 coming in the second half, on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor and four rebounds. Graduate transfer David Shriver came up big off the bench with 11 points and eight rebounds. He knocked down some big 3-pointers and came up with some big rebounds when they needed them down the stretch.
Turnover woes slowed things down for the Rams
The Rams were a bit lackluster on offense early in the game due to 12 turnovers in the first half. They produced just 28 points as a team while going 3-of-7 from the free-throw line and 10-of-28 (35.7 percent) from the field which ultimately allowed the Bears to keep things close. VCU figured things out though, in the second half, thanks to strong showings from Johns Jr., Shriver, Jamir Watkins and Jayden Nunn. Watkins, Nunn and Shriver stepped things up in a big way on the boards and in the paint, combining for 14 rebounds and recording a block apiece in the second half.
Watkins showed off his versatility with five points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal. Nunn had six points, four rebounds, an assist and a block. Shriver recorded five points, five rebounds and a block. Their presence as more than just scorers proved to pay off in a big way as the Rams turned things around in the second half. They shot 14-of-20 (70 percent) from the field and 11-of-18 (61.1 percent) from the free throw line as a team to pick things up and ultimately pick up a victory against a gritty Morgan State squad.
Overall though, VCU finished 14-of-25 (56 percent) from the free-throw line as a team as well. It’s a mental thing to think about as a potential 11 points left on the board makes for a bigger gap in the scoring column in the future. Through two games, they’re shooting 33-for-58 (56.9 percent) from the free throw line as a team. It’s a number they’ll need to improve going forward or things could be a lot more interesting than they need to be when conference play arrives.
Defense never wavered
In game 1 of the season, the Rams forced 27 turnovers against the Manhattan Jaspers and turned them into 16 points in a victory. In their victory over Morgan State, they forced 21 turnovers, scoring 26 points off turnovers. VCU certainly used their defense to find easy buckets against the Bears. They held Morgan State to just 33.3 percent shooting from the field as a team in the second half while holding them to their same first-half total of 27 points.
Their 12 fastbreak points were up slightly from 10 in Game 1 as well, but there’s certainly room to improve on offense. They allowed 12 offensive rebounds to the Bears in the first half. In the second half, they allowed just two offensive rebounds. Ace Baldwin Jr. finished with seven steals, tying his career-high mark set back on Jan. 22 against St. Joseph’s, along with nine points, five assists and a rebound.
The Bears did well to keep the ball out of his hands though he still managed to knock down a 3-pointer during the Rams’ late run to get the crowd going. An offensive stat to keep an eye on though? The Rams are 28-41 (68.3 percent) on layups through two contests so far. They’ll certainly be challenged in their next one in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Legends Classic on Wednesday night.
Jamir Watkins: 10 pts, 9 rebs, 3 asts, 3 blocks, 1 stl
Brandon Johns Jr.: 15 pts, 4 rebs
David Shriver: 11 pts, 8 rebs, 1 blks
Ace Baldwin Jr.: 9 pts, 7 stls, 5 asts, 1 reb
Jayden Nunn: 6 pts, 5 rebs, 4 asts, 3 stls
Jalen DeLoach: 5 pts, 4 rebs, 1 blk