Rams avenge loss against Saint Louis

Redshirt freshman Mo Alie-Cox gave the Rams a boost of the bench against the Saint Louis Billikens on Saturday, March 1, tallying six points and five blocks in 17 minutes. Photo by Tito Henriquez.

Colin Kennedy
Sports Editor

Two weeks after the VCU men’s basketball team suffered a two-point loss at No. 12 Saint Louis University, the Rams defeated the Billikens 67-56 at the Siegel Center on Saturday, March 1.

There were nince ties and 12 lead changes in the Rams’ two-point loss at Saint Louis in February, but the Rams never trailed the Billikens on Saturday.

Junior guard Briante Weber scored just 17 seconds into the game and head coach Shaka Smart’s team never looked back in what was VCU’s 22ndvictory of the season and 19th consecutive home win dating back to last season.

After the game, Weber said victory felt great against a team that had beaten VCU the previous three matchups.

“It was definitely important,” Weber said. “We had a mindset of payback from last year when they beat us in the (Atlantic 10) championship game … It definitely feels good to win against Saint Louis.”

With the win, the Rams improved to 10-4 in the A-10 and 22-7 on the season overall. For conference-leading Saint Louis, it was the team’s second straight loss as the Billikens dropped to 25-4 on the season and 12-2 in A-10 play.

Junior Treveon Graham led the way for VCU with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Weber scored 13 and senior forward Juvonte Reddic pitched in 10. Sophomore guard Melvin Johnson, who started his second consecutive contest following Smart’s lineup change at Fordham University earlier in the week, added nine points of his own.

Smart said it was the Rams’ mental edge that helped his team prevail.

“I thought our guys played with tremendous energy and focus, which allowed us to win the game,” Smart said. “Saint Louis is a tough team, (the Billikens) are very, very difficult to score on and a team that plays with great physicality. But I thought our guys really brought terrific energy aided by the crowd.”

As a team, VCU converted just 24 of 62 shots (39 percent) from the field and 3-16 (19 percent) from three-point range compared to SLU’s 43 percent shooting, but the Rams knocked off the nation’s No. 10 team behind 12 steals and 16 offensive rebounds.

Junior forward Jarred Guest and redshirt freshman Mo Alie-Cox provided Smart with key minutes off the bench, and the two combined to contribute 11 points and seven rebounds. Cox also finished the game with a season-high five blocks.

Saint Louis head coach Jim Crews said he thought VCU’s stingy half-court defense was the difference.

“I don’t think their press bothered us that much,” Crews said following the game. “I think their halfcourt defense bothered us more than their full-court defense.”

Saturday marked VCU’s 49th straight home sellout — a school record. The Rams’ streak is the fifth longest in the nation behind Duke University, Kansas University, Michigan State University and Gonzaga University.

The Rams will close out the regular season with a road game against cross-town rival University of Richmond on Thursday, March 6 and a home game against Saint Bonaventure University on March 8.

VCU will compete in the A-10 conference tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y. From March 12-16.

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