Ryan Grube, Staff Writer
VCU rode a dominant defensive showing to a 73-62 victory over Davidson on Friday night at the Siegel Center.
The national spotlight yielded anything but success for men’s basketball last week in their deciding 87-75 loss to Rhode Island, which Coach Mike Rhoades said lit a fire under the entire team.
“The biggest thing is they were mad from the last performance, and I said ‘well, let’s do something about it,’” Rhoades said. “They were upset and disappointed, to a point where they were embarrassed. I wasn’t nice with them, and I thought they did a good job responding to get ready for today.”
The response was evident. VCU opened the contest with six forced turnovers in the Wildcats’ first seven possessions. Redshirt-senior forward Issac Vann said the team’s scouting report on Davidson’s screens keyed the turnover party during the first few minutes.
“Just how hard we played,” Vann said. “They cut a lot, so just pressuring the ball, and not allowing them to see those cuts.”
The offense was tough to come by in the early going, as the black and gold connected on just two of their first nine attempts from the field. But the Rams’ stifling defense was there from the start, and with each Davidson turnover, shooting lanes began to open up for VCU in transition.
The Rams forced 16 turnovers by the Wildcats in the first half, and finished with 21 for the game. VCU translated the Davidson errors into 23 points off turnovers.
Senior guard De’Riante Jenkins recorded five steals of his own, all before the half, falling halfway shy of Briante Weber’s program record of 10 steals in a game in 2012. Jenkins also chipped in 15 points and seven rebounds.
Redshirt-senior guard Marcus Evans was honored before the game and presented with the game ball from the black and gold’s win over Richmond — the contest in which the redshirt-senior guard surpassed 2,000 career collegiate points.
Evans came out firing on Friday for VCU. The Chesapeake native paced the Rams with 10 first-half points on 3-of-6 shooting, and VCU led 35-20 at the break.
The black and gold’s senior leader finished with 19 points on the evening. The scoring output marked Evans’ highest scoring outing of the season since his 25-point effort against Alabama State on Nov. 25.
Rhoades said Evans’ legs looked good heading into Friday’s match, adding that his performance was no surprise.
“He said today was the best he’s felt in a while,” Rhoades said. “And you saw that when he shot a couple of those threes, he really drove his legs. I thought he had a great game.”
VCU pushed its lead to as much as 20 to kickstart the second half. Davidson, led by 27 points from junior guard Kellan Grady and 20 from freshman forward Hyunjung Lee, was able to weather the Rams’ lead down to seven with just over four minutes to play.
The black and gold utilized a 19-for-19 clip from the free throw line to seal the victory down the stretch.
“We shoot free throws every day. We shoot them under pressure,” Rhoades said of his crew’s hot shooting from the stripe. “A lot of times, when practice is over, everyone has to make 10 at each basket. That’s 60. We just work on it.”
The perfect mark set a new season and program record for makes in a game without a miss for VCU. The team’s previous record was 18-18 against George Mason, earlier this year, on Jan. 5.
The Rams will be back at the Siegel Center against George Mason on Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. That game will be televised on ESPNU.