Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Men’s basketball knocked off St. Francis (Pa.) 72-58 in the season opener at the Siegel Center on Tuesday night.
Junior forward Marcus Santos-Silva logged his seventh career double-double, recording 21 points and 18 rebounds.
Late in the second half, Santos-Silva showed his strength and followed his shot twice after he missed, recording two rebounds before laying it in.
Santos-Silva logged three steals and a block on his big night.
The Rams struggled at moments in the contest, whether it was free-throw shooting or 3-pointers, but senior guard Marcus Evans said it’s early in the season.
“Obviously there are some things we’ve got to clean up,” Evans said. “Turnovers, free throws, some lapses on defense. It’s just about getting out there and playing hard.”
The black and gold turned over the ball 18 times, despite forcing 19 Red Flash turnovers. At some points in the contest, VCU forced a turnover and then gave it right back to St. Francis.
“We failed in the turnover category today, but we’ll get better at it,” Rhoades said. “Let’s take care of the ball. If we get a steal, let’s capitalize on it.”
After falling behind by two in the early going, the Rams went on a 14-2 run spanning just over 4 1/2 minutes to take a 10-point lead. During the run, VCU’s Havoc defense forced four Red Flash turnovers.
The Rams defense took control in the contest, and midway through the first half St. Francis sunk one of its previous 12 field goal attempts. VCU’s defense held strong late in the first half as well, holding St. Francis 0-for its last-5 field goals.
St. Francis was limited to shooting 24% from the field in the first half, including 10% from three. The Rams shot a clip of 48% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes of play.
Santos-Silva logged nine of the Rams’ 23 rebounds in the first half.
Senior guard De’Riante Jenkins finished at the rim for most of the first half, logging four field goals. He recorded 9 first-half points and finished the night with 16.
“I was really excited to see the way DJ [Jenkins] approached that first half,” Rhoades said. “He was aggressive, just not chucking three’s — getting downhill, making plays.”
Midway through the second half, the Rams went on a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 21. Redshirt-senior forward Issac Vann logged 5 of the 7 points in the run for VCU.
The Rams offense stalled in the second half as they went without a field goal for about 5 1/2 minutes and turned over the ball four times. St. Francis pulled within 10 points of the Rams after the scoring drought.
“When you have them down at home, you’ve got to put them away,” Rhoades said.
Evans kick-started the offense with back-to-back buckets and a steal, pushing the lead to 12.
Jenkins put an exclamation point on the night with a one-handed dunk late in the game to get the raucous Siegel Center crowd on its feet.
After the Rams’ 3-point shooting woes in the first half, VCU only attempted one three in the second half. They went to the rim and were 12-for-24 from the field in the second half.
St. Francis shot the ball better in the second half than they did in the first, shooting the 3-pointer at a 45.5% clip.
“First half, felt like we defended them well,” Jenkins said. “Second half, we felt like we got our foot off the gas. We got to stay focused, watch film and get better.”
The Rams host North Texas Nov. 8 at the Siegel Center at 7 p.m.
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