‘Bench Bunch’ keeps VCU on top in A-10

Fred Jeter | 2/22/2019, 6 a.m.
Virginia Commonwealth University’s leading basketball scorer doesn’t have a real name, just a nickname. Meet the “Bench Bunch.”
Pictured from left, P.J. Byrd, Malik Crowfield, DeShawn Curry, Corey Douglas, Michael Gilmore, Mike’L Simms and Vince Williams.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s leading basketball scorer doesn’t have a real name, just a nickname.

Meet the “Bench Bunch.”

There are multiple reasons why Coach Mike Rhoades’ Rams are 16-6 overall, with six straight wins and tied with Davidson University atop the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 10-2 mark.

VCU starts most games with Marcus Evans, De’Riante Jenkins, Marcus Santos-Silva, Sean Mobley and Issac Vann. The Rams’ top individual point maker is junior guard Evans at 13.4 points per game.

The starters rarely break a sweat before Coach Rhoades turns to his reserves, a seven-man posse featuring Corey Douglas, Mike’L Simms, Malik Crowfield, Vince Williams, P.J. Byrd, Michael Gilmore and DeShawn Curry.

They attack in waves, relentlessly.

Together, the “Bench Bunch” averages 22 points per game while logging an average of 67 minutes out of 200 total regulation minutes. VCU’s bench has outscored the opposition’s bench 547 points to 375.

In terms of minutes, the Rams’ reserves have contributed 1,665 minutes compared with 1,467 for their foes.

The long bench enables VCU to play a more aggressive, in-your-face style of defense knowing that fresh legs are waiting. It also helps in spreading out fouls.

All NCAA Division I schools are allowed 13 scholarships. It’s just that VCU makes better use of its resources. Other schools would like to use that formula, but can’t because of a lack of talent or because of the coach’s lack of confidence in his own recruits past the sixth or seventh man.

The VCU “Bench Bunch” has been on a tear as of late. In the Rams’ 80-61 victory Feb. 13 over the University of Richmond, VCU’s bench outscored UR 28-1, with a 65-44 advantage in minutes.

In VCU’s 69-68 win Feb. 16 at the University of Dayton, VCU’s reserves outscored the Flyers 20-2, while winning the minutes tally 65-30.

No wonder VCU is fresher toward the later stages of games than its adversaries.

Here’s a closer look at the “Bench Bunch:”

Douglas (6-foot-9 junior from Louisville, Ky.): Averages 3.7 points, 4.1 rebounds; leads the team with 43 blocked shots.

Williams (6-foot-6 freshman, Ohio): Averages 4.8 points and hitting .500 from the field.

Sims (6-foot-5 junior, Highland Springs): Averages 5.3 points, with 25 hits beyond the arc.

Crowfield (6-foot-4 junior, LaPlace, La.): Former starter has 17 3-pointers.

Gilmore (6-foot-10 senior, Jacksonville, Fla.): Averages 3.1 points, 2.7 rebounds; adds a long arm of defense.

Byrd (6-foot-1 freshman, Houston): His quickness enables the defense to maintain pressure throughout the game.

Curry (6-foot-4 freshman, Jacksonville, Fla.): Like Byrd, his defensive quickness and athleticism keep the defensive screws tight. 

At season’s end, the A-10 Conference will dole out all kinds of individual awards. If the conference were to add an honor called best backups, the Rams’ “Bench Bunch” would be hard to top.