Rhody snaps nine-game VCU win streak
University of Rhode Island
VCU’s impressive nine-game win streak came to a halt Saturday afternoon at the Ryan Center, as the Rams of the University of Rhode Island knocked off the Rams from Richmond, 69-59.
Saturday’s loss marks the first VCU defeat since Jan. 18, when the Black and Gold fell to conference foe Fordham University in the Bronx. At 13-3 in Atlantic 10 conference play, VCU now sits one game back of the red-hot University of Dayton Flyers — a team they face in their next outing Wednesday night in the nation’s aviation capital.
Jonathan Williams was the standout performer in the loss for the Black and Gold, as the junior guard amassed a team-high 14 points — his third successive contest with at least 14. Senior guard JeQuan Lewis and senior forward Ahmed Hamdy joined the speedy point guard in double-digit scoring, chipping in 10 points apiece. Senior swingman Doug Brooks helped fill out the stat sheet with 6 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists.
Much of the Black and Gold’s struggles Saturday stemmed from sub-par production from beyond the arc. The Rams shot just 1-15 from deep on the afternoon, with freshman guard Malik Crowfield sinking the team’s sole three-pointer.
While the game was tight throughout much of the first half with VCU heading to the locker room with a one point advantage, Rhody came out of the gates in the second half on a tear. In the stanza’s opening minutes, Rhode Island came storming out to a 18-4 run, underlined by a pair of successive treys from the game’s leading scorer, junior guard Jared Terrell. The run would give Rhody its largest lead of the night at 51-38.
From there, VCU began to chip away piece-by-piece, eventually cutting the lead to 59-57 after a Williams bucket with just under three-and-a-half minutes left on the clock.
Unfortunately for the Black and Gold, that would be the closest they came to usurping their Ram counterparts. Rhode Island would go on to sink 6-of-8 free throws in the game’s final moments to seal 69-59 the victory.
Saint Louis University
The Rams secured their ninth-consecutive victory Wednesday night, thwarting the visiting Saint Louis University Billikens 64-50 in what would be VCU’s 98th consecutive Siegel Center sellout.
The win represented 100 career victories for the Rams’ current crop of seniors, marking eight consecutive VCU senior classes to achieve that milestone.
Williams was once again the star performer on the night, scoring 17 points in just 26 minutes of action.
“I thought Johnny, did a tremendous job,” said VCU Coach Will Wade. “He got us going offensively — pushing the tempo, getting in the paint, getting going in transition.”
Senior forward Justin Tillman had yet another double-double performance Wednesday, amassing 14 points and 10 rebounds on the night, and freshman standout guard Samir Doughty chipped in 13 points of his own, continuing his ascension in conference play.
“I’ve been shooting the ball more confidently,” Doughty said. “Watching the ball fall in a couple times in the previous games helped me in the games moving forward.”
Although Wade had warned his players of not taking a Saint Louis team that’s only been able to amass four wins in the conference lightly, the Rams came out of the gates struggling to keep up with the Billikens in the period’s opening 12 minutes.
By the under-eight-minute media timeout, the visitors had built a 23-17 lead. The Billikens looked to take control, but the Rams were not going down without a fight. In the period’s closing eight minutes, VCU fired off a 24-7 run to take a 41-30 halftime lead.
From then on, the Rams never looked back as they held their guests at arms length for the remainder of the contest.
“I thought the first eight minutes were very poor, but after we kind of got through that, I thought we played pretty well,” Wade said in his postgame press conference. “But that’s not going to get it done from here on out. We have to play a full game, a complete game.”
VCU once again dominated the stat sheet Wednesday. Although the visitors held the advantage in three-point shooting, the Rams had their way with the Billikens down low, out-rebounding their opponents 41-32 and holding the 38-28 edge in points in the paint.
The Rams improved to 13-5 in conference play with the victory — good enough for first place in the A-10 heading into a pair of highly-anticipated matchups against the Universities of Rhode Island and Dayton.
“It’s a good win, a next step,” Wade said. “When you’re coming down the stretch like this, every step matters when you’re in a tight race.”
The Black and Gold seek to lock up their 11th straight season with 24 or more wins Wednesday night as they head west to take on the conference-leading Dayton Flyers in a showdown that will most likely decide the A-10’s regular season outright champion.