Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Redshirt-junior guard Marcus Evans is no stranger to scoring game-winners against the Flyers. In a play reminiscent of his game-winning 3-pointer against Dayton a month ago, Evans drove toward the hoop and laid it in to put the Rams up by one with six seconds left on the clock on Saturday evening.
It came down to the last second of the game as Dayton inbounded from under the basket. Sophomore forward Marcus Santos-Silva defended the pass as the buzzer sounded, clinching the crucial win.
“It came down to one play,” coach Mike Rhoades said on the Ram Radio postgame show. “We made one play at the end, we knocked the ball away, we won the game. It could have easily went the other way.”
The Rams (19-6, 10-2 Atlantic 10) knocked off the Flyers (16-9, 8-4 A-10) 69-68 on the road, extending the win streak to a season-high six games. The Rams led by as many as 22 points in the second half, only to see the lead quickly dwindle.
“Just step on their neck,” redshirt-junior Issac Vann said of the team’s halftime mindset. “We wanted to try to end the game coming right out of halftime. But we knew they wasn’t going to give up. Just having that army, wearing [the Flyers’] guys down and come out with the win is incredible.”
Vann finished with 14 points, three rebounds and four assists in the contest.
VCU kept the foot on the gas at the start of the second half on a 10-0 run, extending the Rams’ lead to 22.
“We came out of halftime with some great momentum to get up 22,” Rhoades said. “They were sort of playing with house money and said, ‘Let’s see what happens,’ and they got right back into it.”
Dayton answered the Rams’ run with an 10-0 run over about two minutes, holding VCU scoreless for more than 3 1/2 minutes. The run cut the Rams’ lead to 11 before junior guard De’Riante Jenkins stopped the bleeding with a layup, extending the VCU lead to 13.
The Flyers then used another run soon after, this time 8-0, to cut the Rams’ lead to five. Dayton then strung together an additional 8-0 run to take a one-point lead on VCU.
Junior guard De’Riante Jenkins led the way for the Rams, scoring 19 points. He was 5-for-7 from beyond the arc.
Dayton shot 50 percent from the field, including 47 percent from three in the contest.
The game started out back-and-forth as the Rams and Flyers traded baskets, tying the game at 12. Ryan Mikesell started off shooting 3-for-3 from the field.
Mikesell finished with a game-high 22 points and four rebounds for Dayton.
VCU used a 16-0 run over 5 1/2 minutes while holding Dayton without a basket for nearly six minutes of play to take a 14-point lead. During the run, five Rams scored, including freshman forward Vince Williams and sophomore forward Corey Douglas, who had four apiece.
“I think we raised the bar there in the first half on getting onto a great start on the road against a really good team in a hostile environment,” Rhoades said.
The Flyers answered the big run with a 7-0 run of their own, holding VCU without a point for about four minutes.
The Rams took a 12-point lead into the halftime break after forcing 11 Flyer turnovers in the first 20 minutes. VCU scored 11 points off Dayton’s errors.
VCU shot 52 percent at the field in the first half, including 46 percent from three. The Rams started the game shooting 5-for-10 from beyond the arc.
In the first half, the No. 1 3-point defense in the country held the Flyers to shooting 33 percent, and the Rams’ bench outscored Dayton’s 18-0.