VCU continues to lead the Atlantic 10 after beating St. Bonaventure University and maintaining their winning streak for conference play. After going 5-5 in their first 10 games of the season, the Rams registered a perfect record in the last 10 games, seven of which were in-conference matchups.
Junior point guard JeQuan Lewis and senior shooting guard Melvin Johnson scored more than half of team’s points: Lewis with 26 and Johnson with 21. After the game, VCU head coach Will Wade said Lewis’ ability to drive to the basket and score points has been a major factor in the Rams’ winning streak.
“He’s just knifing his way to the rim,” Wade said. “You’ve got some trust in that. Got to let him go a little bit. He’s been able to finish them and drive it in there, and you’ve got to believe in it.”
Strong defensive rebounding on both ends of the court made for a slow start to the game. It wasn’t until the third minute of the first half that either team started putting points on the board consistently.
The Rams went on a 7-0 run before St. Bonaventure could muster up two points. VCU’s trademark defending and defensive rebounding kept St.Bonaventure scoreless for the first five minutes.
VCU held their lead throughout the first half until the final 50 seconds as St. Bonaventure’s Denzel Gregg hit a free throw to give the Bonnies a one point lead. VCU rebounded Gregg’s second foul shot and Lewis drove to the basket, drawing a foul. Lewis sank both shots, giving VCU the 33-32 with 33 seconds left.
St. Bonaventure headed into the locker room leading the Rams 34-33. St. Bonaventure ran down the clock until the final seconds of the half and put up a shot from the corner. The shot rattled off the rim but sloppy rebounding by VCU allowed for a second chance shot.
For the first half of the second period, VCU struggled offensively and the Bonnies continued to hold onto the lead. St. Bonaventure’s senior guard, Marcus Posley, scored his team’s first 16 points after halftime, giving St. Bonaventure an 8-point edge with 12:30 left to play.
Posley finished the evening recording 30 points, shooting 43 percent from behind the arc. With 10:40 left in regulation, Lewis drove for a layup and got fans on their feet and the team’s momentum going.
Lewis’ layup was followed by two points from sophomore Justin Tillman, cutting St. Bonaventure’s lead to 52-50, the closest the Rams had been all half. Tillman scored 17 points and recorded seven rebounds against the Bonnies.
VCU regained the lead with 6:40 left to play, after a missed drive down the lane by Lewis was rebounded by Alie-Cox trailing right behind to bring the score to 61-60.
After that, the game was under VCU’s control. With a 1:15 left to play, VCU extended the lead to 11 points, the largest it had been all game. Both teams fought hard on the boards, VCU finishing with 45 rebounds and St. Bonaventure with 44. VCU forced 12 turnovers and recorded seven steals.
“It’s not so much whether the shots are falling, it’s about pushing their defense,” Lewis said. “The defense gets tired. They’re playing six or seven players (in their rotation), and when you’re pushing the ball at them the whole time, they get tired by the end of the game and don’t have any legs.”
VCU recorded one of its highest scoring games of the season Wednesday night when Duquesne came to the Siegel Center for a 7 p.m. tip-off. But for Wade and the rest of the team, a 93-71 conference victory wasn’t enough.
“I wasn’t really happy with how we played, to be honest,” Wade said, noting the Dukes had 16 offensive rebounds and 21 second-
chance points. “I thought Duquesne competed harder than we did today. That’s a problem so we’ve got to get that fixed,” Wade said.
The Rams were 6-0 in the Atlantic 10, making them the No. 1 team in conference play. Hot off a nine game winning streak, VCU was competing at the same level as a top 25 team, averaging 77.7 points, 36.8 rebounds and 15.2 assists per game.
Despite the team statistics being higher than most teams in the country, including No. 13 University of Virginia, Alie-Cox shared Wade’s thoughts, saying he didn’t think the boys played to their highest level.
“We gave up too many second-chance points,” Alie-Cox said. “They were out hustling us, out-competing us to 50/50 balls, stuff like that we work on everyday in practicing.”
Lewis shared similar sentiments, saying the team still had work to do.
“We’re not satisfied,” Lewis said. “We got to keep being better on offense and defense.”
The first two points of the evening came from Lewis when he pulled up for an “in your face” jumper from the elbow on the Ram’s second possession.
Lewis finished the night 4-4 from the line with 11 points and eight assists.
Brooks had a career high against the Dukes, recording 16 points while shooting 3-5 from behind the arc. Alie-Cox also added 16 points, Tillman totaled 15 points and Johnson finished with 13 points to give the Rams a double figure lead.
VCU shot 52.5 percent against a team that arrived in Richmond allowing its opponents to make just 40.6 percent. From 3-point range, VCU was even better, sinking 10-17 (58.5 percent) with six players making at least one.
The Rams led 44-31 at half-time, only to have an 8-3 run by the Dukes to start the second half. That would be as close as the Dukes would get.
“I thought JeQuan’s charge really changed the game in the second half,” Wade said after the game. “We were struggling getting stops and JeQuan’s charge really changed that.”
The Rams used a 10-0 run early in the second half to open a 57-39 lead, their largest to that point.
After the Dukes scored seven straight points, Tillman scored five and Brooks connected from 3-point land in an 8-0 burst. The lead at its peak was 26 points.
“I thought they were the most physical team we’ve played,” said Duquesne head coach Jim Ferry. “They play really hard, they’re a really good team. The biggest key is JeQuan Lewis. He’s playing like his ability to play. I think he’s really making them play at a higher speed right now.”
Staff Writer, Sophia Belletti
Sophia is a sophomore print/online journalism major with a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies. She enjoys writing about current events and sports and hopes to one day be a sports reporter, covering soccer, basketball and baseball. You can usually find Sophia drinking way too much coffee and laughing at her own jokes. // Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn