Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Students were ready with hostile signs, and the black and gold faithful brought their energy to the Siegel Center as men’s basketball beat former coach Will Wade and No. 23 LSU 84-82 on Wednesday night.
The win was the first time that the Rams beat a ranked opponent since 2014.
“Give credit to the crowd making this place as loud as possible all night,” redshirt-senior forward Issac Vann said. “That’s the kind of environment you come to VCU for, you want to play in those type of big games.”
The crowd noise played a role in the game as LSU turned over the ball 26 times, several of which were errant passes. The Rams scored 37 points off the Tiger errors.
“This is my fourth year of college, and this is the No. 1 toughest environment I’ve ever played in,” said LSU guard Skylar Mays.
Mays finished with a game-high 23 points, leading the way for the Tigers.
Wade said it was hard to prepare for the environment.
“We tried to prepare our guys the best we could,” Wade said. “It didn’t look like it tonight — we threw it all over the gym.”
Redshirt-senior guard Marcus Evans drained a corner three to put the Rams on the board early.
After the under-12 media timeout in the first half, the Rams went on an 8-0 run over 1 1/2 minutes to take their first lead of the night. Junior forward Marcus Santos-Silva logged the final four points of the run.
Santos-Silva logged his eighth career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way for the Rams.
VCU went on another quick run midway through the half, outscoring the Tigers 7-0 in just over one minute.
The black and gold then closed the half on an 11-5 run as sophomore forward Vince Williams, Vann and Evans knocked down three 3-pointers in a row for the Rams. The run gave the Rams a 12 point lead heading into halftime.
“It’s just a rhythm, you see one go in,” Evans said. “One went down, a second went down and then we have a rhythm. … We’re going to have games where we get hot, and tonight was one of those games.”
Evans finished with 15 points for the Rams.
In the first half, the Rams forced 12 LSU turnovers and scored 24 points off the errors. The Rams shot 52% from the field in the first 20 minutes and 44% from three in the period.
The Tigers used a 15-2 run midway through the first half to claw their way back within one.
“We didn’t turn the ball over as much, we were able to keep the ball in the middle of the court,” Wade said. “We were playing on the sides way too much [before].”
VCU used a 7-0 run over almost three minutes toward the end of the game to push the lead to seven. The Tigers answered with a 7-0 run of their own to tie the game at 80 apiece, but were not able to regain the lead the rest of the night.
Down the stretch, the Rams shot 4-for-6 from the free throw line, including Santos-Silva’s 1-for-2 trip to put the black and gold up two.
On the night, the Rams shot 41% from the field, including 32% from deep.
The Rams will host Jacksonville State on Sunday at noon.