DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME…
RICHMOND, Va. – After making quite an impression in front of a national television audience on Friday night against Wichita State, the VCU men's basketball team returns to CAA play this week with its final two regular season games.
Before the Black & Gold take on Drexel and JMU this week, here's some notebook items to consider heading into the home stretch:
- Senior Joey Rodriguez became VCU's all-time leader in games played on Friday night, surpassing former teammate and current Oklahoma City Thunder guard Eric Maynor. Rodriguez has now played in 131 contests and piled up 4,008 minutes (which ranks third most all-time).
- After posting career-highs in minutes, points and field goals in the home loss to Mason last Tuesday, freshman D.J. Haley was etched in the starting lineup for the first time in his young career on Friday night against Wichita State. Asked why after the game, Head Coach Shaka Smart simply stated, "He earned it."
- Championships and wins are really what define any athlete's career. The trio of Rodriguez, Brandon Rozzell and Ed Nixon has surely got their fair share of both, but would like to finish it up in two weeks by celebrating another tournament title at the Richmond Coliseum. The wins are already there for the threesome as they moved past Eric Maynor with their 96th win in the Black & Gold and are now second all-time at VCU. Former Ram T.J. Gwynn leads that category with 103 wins over his four seasons.
- With its 84-74 double-overtime victory at Delaware on Feb. 9, VCU joined an elite group of programs to claim at least 20 regular-season victories in each of the past five seasons. The Rams are the only program in the CAA and the Commonwealth of Virginia to accomplish such a feat. As of Sunday, Feb. 20, only 14 teams across the country have reached that mark with only five other schools having the chance to over the next two weeks.
- Championships are won on the road and that's exactly what the Black & Gold have been doing recently with victories in seven of its past eight games away from the Siegel Center. On the year, the Rams have 10 victories away from 1300 W. Broad, which is just two wins off the school record of 12, set by the 2006-07 team. That record includes a 6-2 mark in road CAA games, which is just one win off the school record for conference road wins, held by 2006-07 and the 2007-08 squads.
- Friday night's showdown with Wichita State marked a third-straight Rams game being shown on the ESPN family of networks. That pushed VCU's total to six games shown by the "Worldwide Leader in Sports", just one off the school record set in 2006-07 and 2007-08. A trip to the CAA Championship game in two weeks would tie the record.
- Several weeks ago, Paul Woody of the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote about seniors Ed Nixon and Joey Rodriguez taking care of the small things that might not show up on the stat sheet. Nixon is the prime case for underrated players as he is the key cog to VCU's defensive efforts and is a dynamic threat on the offensive end. An in-depth look at the stats show that when Nixon is only the floor, teams average just 64.5 points per game, the lowest of any Ram. He also leads the squad in the plus/minus category with +121 on the season.
- After missing eight games with a broken right hand, senior Brandon Rozzell has jumped right back into where he left off as a sharp-shooter for the Rams. He returned with 13 minutes of action at James Madison, but the four games since then Rozzell has drained six three-pointers, averaged 10 points per game, shot 41% from the field and piled up six assists and just two turnovers.
- The phrase "tip-dunk" was a favorite used among the VCU Basketball coaching staff and on Friday night, junior Toby Veal showed everyone exactly what the phrase meant with an authoritative "tip-dunk" over Gabe Blair of Wichita State. Watch the video to the right to see for yourself.