Key runs, balanced scoring vault Rams to win in season opener

Senior guard Marcus Evans logged 12 points and four assists against St. Francis (Pa.). Photo by Alessandro Latour

Ryan Grube, Staff Writer

Basketball is often labeled as a game of runs. VCU practiced this philosophy to the fullest in Tuesday night’s win over St. Francis (Pa).

After falling behind 4-2 early in the contest, the Rams deployed a 23-5 run that spanned more than 9 minutes. 

The stretch run wasn’t necessarily aided by lights-out shooting, as coach Mike Rhoades’ bunch struggled shooting the ball — particularly from three (3-13) — throughout the game, but rather the team’s ability to create easy shots with turnovers.

VCU led by 14 at the half, but St. Francis clawed back into the game on two occasions after the break when the Red Flash cut into the Rams’ lead.

St. Francis trimmed its deficit to 11 with 17:58 remaining, and 10 with 7:22 left in the contest.  

Rhoades said while his squad didn’t have enough long runs to put their opponent away for good, he was pleased with how his guys responded to St. Francis’ mini runs.

“I think we were resilient with a couple runs they had, and we got stops, and then we converted,” Rhoades said. “But when you have them [St. Francis] down at home, you have to put them away, and that’s the next step for us.”

The balanced attack of scoring assisted VCU’s stretch runs. Rhoades said his “army’s” widespread scoring effort was important in securing Tuesday’s victory.

“I think we have a lot of guys that can make a lot of plays. I just think we have to take great pride in that,” Rhoades said. “That’s our identity, we have some weapons without a doubt. But, the biggest thing is making each other better.”   

The black and gold expanded their lead to 21 points with about 13 minutes remaining in the second half. The large advantage followed a 5-2 spurt by the Red Flash to open the second half.

Rhoades said the Rams’ ability to answer St. Francis’ scoring bunches is a testament to the talent he has with the guys on his team. He also noted his players must continue to work on not turning the ball and giving their opponents extra opportunities. 

“If you have a good team and you make an 11-0 run or a 15-2 run, you work really hard not to give them the ball back,” Rhoades said. “That’s something we got better at as [last] year went on, something we have to improve on right now.”

VCU certainly improved in the turnover department as the game progressed. The Rams silenced the Red Flash down the stretch, going on a 17-13 run to close out the game.

Redshirt-senior guard Marcus Evans said although the team has some kinks to work out, his teammates were just worried about executing a win in their first taste of outside competition for the new season.

Santos-Silva said Tuesday’s win was very encouraging, given what his team would like to accomplish this season.  

“We just play with heart. We feel like we can beat anyone,” Santos-Silva said. “If we just go out there and play how we play, we can compete with anyone in the country.” 

The Rams will be back at the Siegel Center Friday night for their matchup against North Texas at 7 p.m. 

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