Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Men’s Basketball fell to the College of Charleston 83-79 Saturday afternoon at the Siegel Center, despite forcing 21 Cougar turnovers.
For the second game in a row, free throws made the difference in the contest. Charleston shot 25-33 from the line compared to the Rams’ 19-30.
“We’ve got to make [free throws],” coach Mike Rhoades said. “There’s no secret. When you get to the line, you got to make foul shots. We work on them every day.”
The Rams faced a similar situation last Sunday against Virginia, as the Cavaliers shot 26-33 from the line and the Rams shot 7-11.
“When you draw fouls and the clock stops, you can gain points [from the free throw line],” Rhoades said. “And when you don’t, you shoot yourself in the foot.”
The Rams’ HAVOC defense got off to a hot start after the Cougars won the opening tip, as VCU forced a turnover that resulted in a layup by sophomore forward Marcus Santos-Silva.
Santos-Silva finished with his second double-double in a row with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Charleston turned it over twice more as the Black and Gold faithful got loud after redshirt-junior forward Isaac Vann threw down a slam dunk on a fast break.
The defense forced five Cougar turnovers in the first four minutes of the game — scoring 10 points off Charleston errors.
VCU’s shooting went cold midway through the second half as the Cougars went on a 9-0 run to take a one-point lead over the Rams. VCU was held scoreless for nearly three minutes during the Cougars run.
“I think that we didn’t keep up the pressure like we usually do and that’s when we let them get on the run,” Santos-Silva said.
Charleston went on another run, this time 8-0, to close out the first half as it held the Rams scoreless.
Redshirt-junior guard Marcus Evans made his first basket of the afternoon in the first 30 seconds of the second half. He was held 0-4 shooting in the first half. Evans finished with 10 points.
Freshman forward Vince Williams sparked a VCU turnover after blocking a Cougar layup — he passed the ball to junior forward De’Riante Jenkins who missed a three. Williams was right under the hoop for the putback and drew the foul.
The Rams made five of their first six shots to start the second half, but went cold midway through the second half, allowing the Cougars to take a six-point lead.
“What’s crazy is we work on offense and defense every day, we shoot free throws every day,” Jenkins said. “And I guess it’s a matter of time [until] the work catch up. It’s just going to catch up at the perfect time, it’s going to just get rolling.”
VCU answered the Charleston run with one of its own, scoring six points in 39 seconds with eight minutes to play in the contest. The 6-0 run cut the Cougar lead to four points.
Williams drew a crucial charge as Charleston tried to bring the ball up the court with just under six minutes to play. Jenkins capitalized on the error with a basket, cutting the Cougar lead to two.
“[Williams] gave us some great energy. He made some plays and kept the ball alive,” Rhoades said. “I thought [Williams] really stepped up today, he’s a good player.”
Jenkins finished with a team-high 23 points but struggled from beyond the arc, shooting 2-11 from three.
The Cougars had a late hot hand, as they made nine of 11 shots toward the end of the second half to pull away from the Rams and lead by nine.
Williams fouled out of the game with less than two minutes left in the contest and received a standing ovation as he left the floor. He finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
VCU put together a 9-2 run in the final two minutes to get within two points, but the Cougars held off the Rams for the victory.
“All our close losses, late in games — we didn’t finish the game,” Rhoades said. “It means we can get better, it’s just disappointing that we are learning it the hard way.”
The Rams turned the ball over 16 times, allowing Charleston to score 22 points off the errors.
“It’s disappointing because you have a good team come into your place…you have an opportunity to win and you don’t,” Rhoades said. “Down the stretch, we beat ourselves. It’s disappointing but it also says we have a long way to go.”