After defeating the University of Richmond 81-70 on Saturday, Feb. 1, the VCU men’s basketball team improved to 11-0 at home this season. The Rams’ undefeated home record and 16-game home win streak, which dates back to last season, helps reinforce the dominance head coach Shaka Smart’s teams have shown over the past three years at the Siegel Center, where the Rams have compiled a 45-3 record.
The Rams, who boast a 5-4 record this season away from home, continued to find hometown support as the arena celebrated its 46th consecutive sellout Saturday.
There is no question that the Rams have been exceptionally dominant at home, the only question is why.
VCU has outscored opponents by an average of 3.8 points per game on the road so far this season. And though the Rams have been outscored by an average of 5.33 points at neutral locations, VCU has outscored visitors to the Siegel Center by an average of 18.58 points per contest.
A key part of the equation is free throws. Teams coming into the Siegel Center have, on average, converted free throws at a rate 4 percent lower than their overall season average and 8 percent lower than their average at away games. An aggressive crowd can easily distract visiting players and throw them off their game while they are at the line.
The Rams also appear to display more discipline on their home court, only committing more fouls than their opponents three times at home this season. Thus far in 2013-14, VCU has won the foul battle just two times on the road. The Rams won both games.
The hostile environment that road teams have to face often leads to a less disciplined performance, which leads to more fouls and more free throw attempts for the Rams.
While Smart’s havoc defense continues to force turnovers wherever it plays, the Rams still manage to turn up the intensity an extra notch at home. Through 11 games at the Siegel Center this year, VCU opponents are committing an average of 7.8 more turnovers than their season average.
This added intensity on defense further manifests itself in their shot defense. On the road, VCU has allowed opponents to convert 45 percent of their baskets, while allowing only 39 percent at home.
The Rams’ trip to Puerto Rico Nov. 21-24 helped highlight VCU’s difficulty playing away from home as it lost two of three games in the early-season tournament.
At this neutral location, where neither team received a crowd-noise advantage, both VCU and its opponents shot above season averages in free throws consistently.
As conference play for the Atlantic 10 continues, one of the biggest questions for the Rams is in their ability to make free throws. It remains to be seen whether VCU will be able to maintain such a dominant showing at home despite shooting worse than 62 percent from the line at the Siegel Center on five separate occasions this season. While the Rams managed to escape those five games with victories, poor free throw shooting could plague VCU against tougher conference opponents.
Though the Rams’ average margin of victory at home will almost surely drop from 18.58 points as conference play continues, VCU seems poised to continue to successfully defend home court this season.
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