Following a devastating 67-52 loss at home to cross-town rivals the University of Richmond Wednesday, marking a two-game lose streak, VCU snapped the skid against the George Washington University Saturday in an 87-64 win.
The Rams looked strong from start to finish, beginning with back-to-back stops on defense in GW’s first two possessions, hitting their first three attempts from behind the arc and ending with three layups in a row by three of VCU’s five freshmen.
Afterward, VCU coach Mike Rhoades said the last week was tough, especially on the players. The Rams lost by 27 at Dayton University on Jan. 12 before losing by 15 to UofR at home Wednesday.
“(The players) were really bummed out, and they were feeling like they were letting everybody down,” Rhoades said. “And they’re not letting us down. They’re trying their hardest. Doesn’t always go the way they want, or we want. And I told them, ‘Outside these doors, it doesn’t matter.’ It’s what you guys think of each other and yourselves. And that’s all that matters.’”
VCU was led in scoring by sophomore guard De’Riante Jenkins and senior forward Justin Tillman with 18 each. Tillman knocked down 7-of-11 from the field, 4-of-4 at the line and led the team in rebounding with eight, good for 190 this season.
Senior guard Johnny Williams added 14 points and four assists, while freshman forward Marcus Santos-Silva provided 11 points and 5 rebounds off the bench.
Freshman guard Sean Mobley recorded his first start of the season Saturday. Even though the Cocoa Beach, Florida-native only recorded two points, he contributed to the win by dishing out 8 assists.
“With these dudes around us, it’s hard not to get assists with the way they shoot and they score,” Mobley said.
Rhoades commended his team for their defensive efforts. VCU outrebounded GW 34-22 and did not allow any second chance points, while GW allowed 18.
“We did a really good job on the rebound, eliminating the one and dones,” Rhoades said.
VCU showcased its depth Saturday, allotting all eligible players on the roster playing time. VCU’s bench recorded 27 points, compared to GW’s 5.
VCU struggled to find momentum Wednesday against cross-town rivals UofR as they dropped their second game in the row by a score of 67-52.
This loss ended a six-game VCU winning streak in the rivalry.
The Rams shot 34 percent from the field and a mere 17 percent from three. The Spiders outrebounded the Rams 38-28, which only allowed for five second chance points.
This was just the fifth game this season Richmond has outrounded an opponent and by the largest margin.
“In the first half I don’t think we moved enough and we were getting good shots and getting to the rim but we missed post moves we’ve been making and finishes,” Rhoades said. “We had some wide open threes but we just didn’t knock them down and we got in a hole.”
Richmond shot 53.7 percent (29-of-54) from the field, including 58.3 percent (14-of-24) in the second half.
“We’ve had enough struggles on the defensive end of the court and it just magnified today with our lack of production on offense,” Rhoades said.
Tillman and sophomore guard/forward Mike’l Simms led the Rams in scoring with 12 a piece. Tillman fell short of recording his eighth double-double in a row but still led VCU in rebounds with nine.
After shooting 50 percent in the first half, the Spiders had an even stronger second half, shooting 58.3 percent to break the gap open by as much as 21 in the last few minutes of the game.
At the end of the first half, the Rams narrowed the gap, courtesy of a 7-2 run, to only seven, but Richmond hit each of its first six shots of the second half and opened the lead to 14, 49-35, just over five minutes into the half. Richmond held the lead the entire game.
“When the offense wasn’t going, we were losing our confidence and it hurt us on the defensive end,” said Rhoades.
The Rams are now tied for fourth in the A-10 with a 4-3 record. Up next, the Rams travel out west to take on the Saint Louis University Billikens Tuesday at 9 p.m.
Sophia Belletti, Executive Editor