Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Men’s Basketball clawed back after trailing La Salle by 18 to a 69-63 win Wednesday night behind an 8-0 run in the second half to extend the win streak to four.
Junior guard De’Riante Jenkins hit a buzzer-beating three to close out the first half, swinging the momentum in the favor of the Rams. The basket cut the Explorers’ lead to nine heading into the halftime break.
The 8-0 run midway through the second half gave the Rams their first lead of the game. This would prove to be the contest’s lone lead change — and VCU took full advantage of it.
Redshirt-junior forward Isaac Vann sparked the run with a layup and 13:20 remaining in the contest. The next six points were scored via free throws as four Rams combined to go 6-12 from the line.
Shooting woes in the first half for the Rams allowed the Explorers to build an early lead, opening up the game on a 6-0 run.
The Rams did not score until Jenkins hit a three 3:21 into the first half. Jenkins finished with a team-high 15 points for VCU.
La Salle quickly put together an 11-0 run early in the first half to take a commanding 16-point lead.
“We played the worst half by far that we’ve played all year, and we were down nine,” redshirt-junior guard Marcus Evans said. “That speaks a lot about this team. And, came out in the second half — crowd did a great job for us, but we just kept fighting and it’s a hard-fought win.”
VCU shot 29.2 percent from the field in the first half, including 30.8 percent from beyond the arc. The bright spot of the first half for the Rams was the perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line.
“We were fighting in the first half, so we were chucking shots,” coach Mike Rhoades said. “I want our guys to have freedom and be aggressive. But they know, you chuck shots they don’t go in. They were allowing the issues that happen on offense affect your defense.”
There were spurts of the VCU HAVOC defense in the contest including early in the second half. Sophomore forward Marcus Santos-Silva stole the ball from La Salle, passed it to junior guard Malik Crowfield, who went back inside for Santos-Silva for the layup.
Santos-Silva scored 13 points in the contest, 11 in the second half.
This sequence was a part of a 9-0 run that spanned 1:42, which the Rams used to get within two points of La Salle.
Evans capped off the run with a jump shot. Evans recorded all 12 of his points in the second half.
“[Evans] was two different cats in that game,” Rhoades said. “First half he fought it, when you’re a good player you don’t have fight the game — you just play the game. In the second half, he relaxed, he waited, he made plays but he also got us into stuff. He drew eight fouls, a point guard that draws eight fouls — that’s impressive.”
The Rams look to improve their conference record as they remain on the hunt for the A-10 title.
“For where we want to go, you better be hungry in this league or you’ll get eaten,” Rhoades said.
VCU will travel Saturday to take on Davidson at 2 p.m. The Rams return home to the Siegel Center on Wednesday Jan. 12 for a battle with Dayton at 8 p.m.
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