Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
With less than a minute to play, freshman guard Bones Hyland missed two free throws as the Rams led by 2 points. Duquesne’s Lamar Norman Jr. went the other way and hit the game-tying layup with 5.6 seconds to play to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, Duquesne and the black and gold traded punches until the Dukes’ Baylee Steele knocked down a 3-pointer that proved to be the difference in the contest. Duquesne won in overtime 80-77 Tuesday night at the Siegel Center.
The Rams shot 50.8% from the field on the night. Duquesne recorded a 47.4% mark from the field.
Junior forward Marcus Santos-Silva led the way with 24 points and eight rebounds for VCU.
The Rams started on a 6-0 run, fueled by the black and gold’s big men: Santos-Silva and freshman forward Hason Ward. VCU forced two Duquesne turnovers in the run.
Santos-Silva logged 4 points and three rebounds in his first two minutes of play.
The black and gold went on another run midway through the first half, holding the Dukes without a point for just over two minutes.
VCU logged its first 16 points in the paint, which senior forward Mike’l Simms said was emphasized heading into the game.
“We know inside out is our bread and butter, so we put a lot of pressure on the defense by finishing inside, and it opened up the court for us and our threes to fall,” Simms said. “It was a big emphasis for this game to take it inside.”
Both teams fell into a period in which nothing was working, failing to score for more than two and a half minutes. Simms hit a 3-pointer to end the drought at just over three minutes.
The Rams closed the half shooting 1-for-10 from the field. VCU shot 40% from the field in the first half, including 3-for-12 from deep. Duquesne logged a 48% clip from the field in the first 20 minutes.
“I thought our first half defense was maybe the best of the year,” coach Mike Rhoades said. “Our second half defense really hurt us. We gave up threes and we gave up offensive rebounds, which was a huge emphasis.”
Midway through the second half, Santos-Silva scored 7 straight points, including three layups and a free throw.
Duquesne went on a 7-0 run late in the second half, forcing four black and gold turnovers. The Rams were held scoreless and didn’t score for close to three and a half minutes.
Late in the second half, the Rams didn’t record a made field goal for more than six minutes.
“We just went away from feeding the inside,” Simms said. “We went away from it, and we didn’t log the end of the game. We was just chucking threes here and there and wasn’t getting stops on the other end.”
Santos-Silva ended the Rams’ drought without a field goal, recording a steal at midcourt and laying it in.
The Rams travel to Davidson on March 6 to play the Wildcats at 9 p.m.