Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Threes were limited for the Rams, but when they went up, they went in for junior guard De’Riante Jenkins who made all four of his attempts as VCU defeated the University of Massachusetts Minutemen 68-50 Saturday night.
Jenkins’ hot hand came late in the first half as he hit two in a row, including one from deep beyond the arc.
“It’s coming together at the perfect time and I think we are peaking at the perfect time,” Jenkins said. “Everyone is having great success, not only me, and it’s showing.”
The 50 points allowed to the Minutemen is the 10th time this season that the Rams have held an opponent under 60. Last season, VCU only held an opponent under 60 once.
“I thought our defense today was very good, especially when we didn’t foul,” coach Mike Rhoades said after the win. “We did a good job in the second half getting some momentum, getting some stops and turning it into offense.”
VCU held UMass star Luwane Pipkins to 14 points in the win — he averaged 18.8 points prior to Saturday.
“Try to limit him as much as possible, make him take tough twos,” redshirt-junior forward Isaac Vann said. “Obviously we know we not going to hold him scoreless, but try to make his shots as difficult as possible. Put a little size on him and that’s it.”
It was a slow start as both teams traded possessions for the first few minutes, when Evans layed it in off the glass and drew the foul.
The Rams held the Minutemen scoreless for the first 4 1/2 minutes until UMass’ Curtis Cobb drained a 3-pointer.
VCU took a 10-point lead into the foul-filled half, with a combined 27 called.
Redshirt-junior guard Marcus Evans was in foul trouble in the first half, as he had two early fouls. Freshman guard PJ Byrd played 15 minutes in his place to reduce the chances of Evans picking up another.
“It was huge,” Vann said. “Obviously ‘deuce’ got into some foul trouble, so all the games leading up to this just gave PJ [Byrd] more experience. That experience just allowed him to play 15 minutes tonight. You gotta grow up sometime.”
Rhoades echoed a similar sentiment.
“When you play a lot of guys, you’re ready for a situation like that,” Rhoades said. “He’s been playing minutes all year long, he’s had some great moments and he’s had some freshman moments. Today he did a great job of steadying us, getting us through that choppy first half.”
In the second half, the Rams as used three different runs to extend their lead over the Minutemen.
VCU went on a 7-0 run early in the second half over 2:13, including a Jenkins three. This run gave the Rams an 8-point lead.
The Rams used a 8-0 run midway through the second half, putting VCU up by 12 — the final VCU run was also 8-0, which extended the lead to 17 for the Rams, sealing the victory.
VCU took a season-low 13 three’s, finishing 6-13 from beyond the arc.
“The emphasis these last couple of practices was take the right shots, not necessarily limit the threes but just take the right shots,” sophomore Corey Douglas said.
“We want to shoot threes, but we want to take good threes,” Rhoades said. “We don’t want to take contested threes. We are emphasizing it more and we are getting better at it.”
There was a total of 50 fouls in the contest, 29 on the Minutemen and 21 on the Rams.
“The worst thing is emotions,” Jenkins said. “People’s emotions start to go out the window when [there are] bad calls, calls against them. We all just say, ‘Stay together,’ when we huddle with each other [after fouls] that’s all the saying is, ‘Just stay together,’ and just weather it.”
The Rams go on the road next week for two Atlantic 10 contests to face Rhode Island Jan. 23 and Duquesne Jan. 26.