Noah Fleischman Staff Writer
Adam Cheek Staff Writer
Men’s Basketball improved to 3-0 with a pair of comfortable, double-digit wins over Bowling Green and Hampton. VCU forced a combined 44 turnovers in the matchups. Recovering from an Achilles injury, redshirt-junior guard Marcus Evans played in both games, but has yet to start.
As the story has gone many times before, Men’s Basketball earned a win almost entirely off the strength of its robust defense. The Rams forced a season-high 27 turnovers and scored 30 points off of miscues by Bowling Green and defeated the Falcons 72-61.
“Your defense gets better when the players see it working in games,” said coach Mike Rhoades after the game. “When the coaches are yelling and demanding so much from them in practice, you know they are true believers when it carries over into games and is working … it makes them look good.”
The Black and Gold’s 27 forced turnovers was the most the team has garnered since it turned over 31 against Buffalo in 2015. But the Rams made much of the 15 errors they forced out of Bowling Green in the first half, as they scored 15 points from turnovers in the first 20 minutes of play.
“Late in the first half we heard the crowd it was just like an extra boost,” junior guard De’Riante Jenkins said. “We kind of seen it in them that they didn’t want to play then, so we just put it away from there.”
Freshman forward Vince Williams added three points to the run that the Rams went on at the end of the half. He finished the game tied for the team high with 12 points and three rebounds. Williams shot 6-7 from the free-throw line.
“Pound for pound, he is one of the best players on the team,” Rhoades said of Williams. “He does some things that veterans do, he’s got a really good feel [for the game].”
Redshirt-junior guard Marcus Evans — who recently recovered from an Achilles injury — turned the volume levels up in the Siegel Center in the second half as he hit a long three while being fouled. He went on to hit the free throw to complete the four-point play. He finished the night with 12 points, three assists and five steals.
Redshirt-sophomore forward Corey Douglas had one of his many blocks down the stretch as he denied a Falcon inside the paint with about six minutes left. Douglas finished the night with seven points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
“The last two games we kind of relaxed a little bit [in the second half],” Douglas said of the Rams’ second-half defense the last two games. “The main focus today was if we get up we’ve got to put our foot on their necks.”
VCU shot 8-29 beyond the arc — Rhoades thought there could be improvement in that category.
“We need to shoot the ball better from three,” Rhoades said. “I think we’ve got to get our teammates better shots from three. We’re not making enough threes, if you’re shooting 29 threes, you’ve got to make more than eight.”
VCU has allowed an average of 58.3 points a game and the Falcons were the first to score more than 57 points against the Rams. This was the third game that the Rams held their opponent to 61 points or less — an accomplishment only done twice last season.
VCU Athletics announced in a second-half media timeout that former Rams guard Eric Maynor made a generous donation to the athletics department. Maynor played at VCU from 2005-2009 and was drafted 20th overall by the Utah Jazz in the 2009 NBA Draft.
The Rams lit up the Hampton Pirates for 35 first-half points, eventually taking home a 69-57 win in front of the 119th consecutive sellout crowd at the Siegel Center Nov. 9. The packed Stu watched as VCU forced 17 turnovers, limited the Pirates to 29 percent shooting and improved to 2-0.
The Rams’ sophomore forward Marcus Santos-Silva racked up a career-best 16 points along with 4 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal. Redshirt junior guard Marcus Evans added 13 points of his own.
Evans grabbed 5 rebounds, recorded 3 assists and 2 steals. Seven Rams scored 5 or more points on the night. Redshirt-junior forward Issac Vann contributed 7 points in addition to four rebounds, three assists and four steals.
“[Our depth] is big this year,” Evans said after the game. “Last year we had injuries that hurt us and it was a new roster with a new coach. This year we have what we call a whole army. We can go deep on our bench, especially the way we play with pressure and keep the pressure up all game.”
After the Pirates scored first, VCU went on a 14-4 run, extending its lead to 22-8 as the clock wound down. After a Hampton 3-pointer, the Rams went on another run, this time scoring 13 to Hampton’s three. The Black and Gold took their 20-point lead into halftime.
A brief rally from the Pirates highlighted the beginning of the final half, but redshirt-sophomore forward Corey Douglas kicked off a seven-point run by the Rams with a layup. The momentum shifted back and forth as Hampton went on a 5-0 run and VCU answered with a 7-0 burst.
The Pirates eventually rallied to cut the lead to seven, but Evans knocked down three and Santos-Silva slammed in a dunk, extending the lead to 12.
The Rams shot 42.6 from the field, netted 18 points off turnovers and scored nearly half their points in the paint.
“[Defense] is what we did all summer,” said sophomore forward Sean Mobley. “That’s all [assistant coach Jamal Brunt] emphasized because defense leads to offense.”
VCU will take on Temple Nov. 19, with tip-off set for 9:30 p.m. The Rams will face the Owls at the Barclays Center in New York for the Legends Classic and will play the winner of California vs. St. John’s the following day.