After edging the Billikens 63-61 back in January, the Rams dominated round two in the Siegel Center on Tuesday, Feb. 17, defeating Saint Louis University 74-54.
The Rams had a strong start on the night with a 10-2 run in the opening minutes of the game. The first eight of those points were scored by VCU senior guard Treveon Graham, who was the leading scorer for the Rams on the night with 16 total points.
“I thought it was good for the bench to come out and play the way they did tonight,” Graham said. “I just think it’s important for the team as a whole to come out aggressive. The couple games at home, we were playing non-aggressive, so the coaches wanted us to come out real loose and aggressive and I thought if I came out aggressive, my teammates would follow.”
After VCU held an early 10-2 lead, the Billikens went on a 10-0 run to take a 12-10 lead. Redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Burgess landed a layup to tie the score at 12-12. After trading baskets over the next two and a half minutes, the score stood at 17-17 with little more than nine minutes remaining in the first half.
The Rams went on a 10-0 run to take a 27-17 advantage, which they managed to hold all the way through the rest of the first half. St. Louis went into the break trailing 34-22.
“I thought we had a pretty good killer instinct today,” Smart said. “Our guys showed good response today, when St. Louis made a run on us and then to start the second half defensively. We did a nice job there.”
The Rams opened up the second half with junior guard Melvin Johnson hitting a three pointer for VCU. SLU freshman forward Milik Yarbrough hit a jumper to respond for the Billikens. Yarbrough finished as the leading scorer for the Bilikens with 17 points.
After Graham made two out of four free throw attempts, the Rams led 39-24. For the rest of the second half, at no point were the Billikens able to come any closer than 13 points.
Redshirt sophomore guard Torey Burston’s three-pointer with about a minute and a half remaining gave the Rams a solid 74-53 advantage, which ended with a blowout victory for the Rams.
“We have a long way to go in terms of where we need to be as a team, every single possession,” Smart said. “Our young guys understanding the urgency of some of the little details, and Saint Louis has a young team. So I think a lot of those guys on Saint Louis’ team, their best basketball is way ahead of them. They’re going to be a much more difficult team to deal with next year.”
Freshman forward Michael Gilmore was the second-highest scoring Ram after Graham with 10 points and freshman guard Terry Larrier added nine for VCU.