RICHMOND — When it comes to sloganeering, VCU simply has it better. For the Rams, it starts before tip-off, with a huge, billowing banner held up by the entire student section, that reads “Havoc Lives Here”. It’s a credo embraced by the entire program. At Wichita State, they favor MTXE, which stands for Mental Toughness Extra Effort. Nice philosophy, but it’s hell on a bumper sticker.
“It certainly is Havoc,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said about VCU’s pressure defense after the game. “It’s not something we can replicate in practice. But you can get opportunities from the press.”
In the end, Marshall’s MTXE philosophy trumped Havoc, and the Shockers went home with a hard-fought 53-51 road win.
The lead changed hands several times throughout a game that turned into a back-and-forth rock fight rather than the track meet many expected. Richmond’s Juvonte Reddic took heroic measures to keep his team alive, scoring 22 points to go with 10 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. His points came anywhere from 5 to 15 feet away from the basket, and Wichita State had no answer for him on defense.
Shocker big men Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early consistently made the most of inside position, taking the ball inside to combine for 26 points and 17 boards for the winning team.
Wichita State had some horses in the backcourt in this meeting. Malcolm Armstead, the former Oregon Duck, drilled a cool-headed step-back jumper with 3.8 seconds left in the second half. Marshall described the simple play that provided the winning margin for WSU.
“It’s called the See play – give the ball to Malcom and everybody get out of the way and see what he can get you. He wanted it, and I was smart enough to listen.”
There was controversy at the end of the game, as Reddic drove toward the bucket and put up a layup that rimmed out. The ball was seemingly touched by Shocker Carl Hall while it was on the cylinder, but referees awarded two free throws to Reddic instead of calling goaltending. His miss sealed the loss for the home team – a surprising result, given that the Rams had met, and beaten the Shockers twice in recent years; the latest coming in the NCAA tournament’s second round earlier this year.
Smart hesitated to speak openly about the final play, considering his words carefully before concluding “They said it was not a reviewable play. A game like this doesn’t really come down to just one play.”
The Shockers have seen more of the Rams than any of the current A-10 teams, and they’ve provided a workable, if difficult to replicate, blueprint for dealing with Havoc.
“We had to not turn the ball over, keep them out of transition, set up our press every time,” said Marshall. “We wanted to play North/South, they want you to play East/West. We scored against their pressure in crucial times.”
Marshall left the door open for another rematch between the two squads, saying “I didn’t feel it could be a rivalry until we won one. Maybe now we can [talk about it].”