Ryan Grube, Staff Writer
The threes were raining down for men’s basketball Sunday night, as the Rams utilized a season-high 14 made 3-pointers to top Loyola (Md.) 85-51.
The victory moved the black and gold to 10-3 on the season to close out non-conference play. The Rams join five other conference teams at double digit wins, as head coach Mike Rhoades and company prepare for a much-improved Atlantic 10.
Rhoades’ crew assisted on 24 of their 31 made field goals Sunday. He said he was pleased with how his players moved the ball to create open looks.
After they struggled out of the gates during their two-game road trip, the Rams were plagued with another slow start Sunday. VCU converted on just one of seven attempts to begin the contest, and the team trailed at the first media timeout.
But soon enough, the shots began to fall. The Rams hit four triples in a span of five minutes, midway through the first half, to open up a 7-point lead.
Senior guard De’Riante Jenkins was a huge part of VCU’s success from deep. The Eutawville, South Carolina, native connected on five of 11 3-point attempts to pace the Rams with 15 points.
Jenkins was honored before the game for becoming the 39th player in program history to eclipse 1,000 career points. Rhoades presented his senior with the game ball from the team’s loss against Wichita State — the game in which Jenkins crossed the milestone.
Jenkins described the moment as a blessing, adding how memorable it was to hear the crowd during his moment.
“Coming from where I come from, not a lot of guys get the opportunity to come to college,” Jenkins said. “For me to engrave my name into VCU basketball with all the great players, I have to give it all to God.”
The Rams held a 9-point lead at the break. Rhoades’ bunch ramped up the defensive intensity from there, holding the Greyhounds to a mere 20 second-half points.
Sophomore guard KeShawn Curry said the key to the Rams’ second-half success was setting down on defense, and becoming more disciplined with steal attempts.
Curry chipped in a season-high 12 points off the bench. Meanwhile, freshman guard Bones Hyland added 15 points — also a season-high — on five threes (5-for-7 from deep).
Rhoades said it was good to see his bench contributing at a high level as the team moves into conference play. The coach’s “army” accounted for 52 of the squad’s 85 points, the most since Dec. 16, 2014 against Belmont when the bench logged 56.
“Our bench should be a secret weapon. It should be a reinforcement all the time,” Rhoades said. “It’s huge because of the style of play, not everyone plays like us. So, we’ll use it to our advantage.”
Sunday’s win marked VCU’s largest margin of victory in the season. But Rhoades said the team still has plenty of room for improvement with Atlantic 10 play nearing arrival.
“I like the mindset, coming back from Christmas, but we got things to do here,” Rhoades said. “But we have to get better. We have to rebound better, we have to take care of the ball better, and we have to get mentally tougher. When we are mentally tougher, I think we’re pretty good.”
The Rams will open A-10 play at home against Fordham on Thursday, Jan. 2, at 7 p.m.