Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Men’s Basketball won its 100th Atlantic 10 game in school history after knocking off Saint Louis 71-65 Tuesday as redshirt-junior guard Marcus Evans led the way with 20 points.
Evans was 3-for-5 from beyond the arc heading into the halftime break with 15 points and simmered down in the second half. But the Chesapeake native drew seven fouls in the contest, including the fifth and final foul on Saint Louis star D.J. Foreman.
“Not gonna lie, the last one hurt,” Evans said. “The last one definitely hurt on Foreman … but it’s what we needed. I got a good little instinct as far as [taking charges]. But like I said, it was needed.”
Four Billikens players had four fouls in the final minutes, two of whom ended up fouling out — Foreman and Hasahn French.
“Looking up on the scoreboard I saw that guys were starting to get in foul trouble,” Evans said. “[I] just stay in attack mode, but also stay within our offense.”
Freshman forward Vince Williams drew three fouls in the contest, including a couple charges.
“Winning plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet I think are huge,” coach Mike Rhoades said. “Huge for the buy-in for the program and the team, when you see one of your best players out there taking multiple charges and you see a guy like [De’Riante Jenkins] diving head first to the floor … it makes everybody else [think] I gotta do it too.”
The Rams were out-rebounded 38-25 in the physical contest around the glass.
“It was a bloodbath,” Rhoades said. “It was a physical game and we needed that, we definitely needed that. Really proud of our guys finding a way to scrap it out at the end.”
The Rams started the game on a 6-0 run led by sophomore forward Marcus Santos-Silva, who had 4 points within the first two minutes. Saint Louis was forced to call a timeout following the run.
Saint Louis came out of the timeout on fire, scoring 6 unanswered points and tying the game at 6 apiece.
VCU used a 7-0 run midway through the first half to build a 10-point lead on the Billikens. Junior guard Mike’l Simms hit a 3-pointer from the corner to cap the run.
Late in the first half, HAVOC was too much for Saint Louis as the Billikens were called for a 10-second violation. Following the turnover, Evans hit a 3-pointer in front of the Saint Louis bench, pushing the lead to 13.
The Rams shot 50 percent from the field, including 41 percent from three in the first half. Saint Louis shot 48 percent from the field in the first half, but VCU held the Billikens to 0-for-4 beyond the arc.
Saint Louis went on a 9-0 run that spanned just under two minutes midway through the second half, pulling the Billikens within two.
“Finish,” Rhoades said of the message in the huddle down the stretch. “We had a lot of 20-point-plus wins but it’s this time of the year, games are going to be a grind, when you’re not playing well you still gotta find a way to win [and] we’ve been doing that.”
The Rams answered with a 6-0 run of their own that was just over 1 1/2 minutes to push the lead to 8.
VCU held on to the lead for the entire game and was only tied with the Billikens twice throughout the game.
The Rams’ bench outscored the Billikens’ 15-1 in the contest, and the defense forced 19 turnovers, scoring 22 points off the errors.
“Our style of play, playing a lot of guys, we create turnovers that create offense. That’s what we do. It’s a cumulative effect, it’s great for morale, it’s great for our guys,” Rhoades said. “We created 19 turnovers, and a lot of that has to do with it. In the last eight minutes of the game, our guys have legs, and maybe the other team doesn’t have as much legs as we do.”
The Rams shot 45.1 percent from the field, including 28 percent from beyond the arc. VCU’s No. 2 ranked 3-point field goal defense held the Billikens to shooting 26.7 percent from beyond the arc.
With three games left in the regular season, redshirt-junior forward Issac Vann said the team’s goal is to “win them all.”