Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
From an end of shot clock dunk to a one-handed alley oop, sophomore forward Hason Ward made his presence known in his first career start Saturday afternoon.
Men’s basketball knocked off La Salle at the Stuart C. Siegel Center 73-62 behind sophomore guard Bones Hyland’s 23 points and Ward’s 13 points and 10 rebounds — his first career double-double.
“I thought [Hason] did a great job for his first start,” coach Mike Rhoades said. “When he’s running the floor and he’s active on the glass, he’s a good weapon to have.”
Ward started in place of senior forward Levi Stockard, who was ruled out due to concussion protocol.
“He [Ward] did everything that we expect him to do: he was flying around, blocking shots and scoring inside and playing defense,” senior forward Corey Douglas said. “Playing with him is fun, and it makes everything a lot easier on me knowing that I’ve got somebody else that can also defend the basket just as well.”
The Rams got off to a slow start, turning over the ball four times in the first four minutes. La Salle took advantage, scoring 4 points off the errors. In the early going, the Rams trailed by as many as 5 points.
Rhoades said the response to adversity against La Salle was “a lot better.”
“They did some things that other teams didn’t and really got after us, and we fought it,” Rhoades said. “We settled down, started executing.”
Junior forward Vince Williams knocked down the black and gold’s first 3-pointer of the contest on the team’s third attempt to tie the game at 13 points. The basket ended the Rams’ scoring drought that lasted for more than three minutes.
The Explorers seemed to take the driver’s seat after, going on a 10-2 run, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Sharief Kenney midway through the first half.
The run pushed the La Salle lead to 8 points, and Kenny dropped 15 of his 20 points in the first half.
“We knew they were going to be aggressive and keep going at us,” Douglas said. “We knew they weren’t going away. … We knew that we was going to make our run eventually and just stay level headed.”
VCU answered the La Salle run with two of their own, first a 7-0 run that held the Explorers without a point for three minutes. La Salle answered with a 5-point spurt before the Rams went on a run again.
The black and gold closed the first 20 minutes on a 9-0 run to take a 3-point lead to the locker room. VCU’s defense held the Explorers off the board for the final four and a half minutes.
Ward capped the run with a one-handed alley oop from Hyland that sent the 250 fans in the Siegel Center to their feet.
The Rams went on a 7-0 run early in the second half, led by junior forward Vince Williams, who scored 5 points during the run.
Then, the game stalled. The Rams didn’t score for five minutes, but La Salle was only able to string together 3 points during the drought.
“We don’t want to stack possessions where we don’t get anything, right?” Rhoades said of the stall in the offense. “We need to come down the court and execute the call and not fight the defense.”
VCU broke the drought in style, going on a 13-2 run to push its lead to 16 points. Hyland sparked the run with a deep 3-pointer from the logo at midcourt.
La Salle went on an 8-0 run late, but VCU answered with a pair of free throws from Tre Clark and a Ward putback.
VCU shot 45% from the field, including 27% from deep. The Rams allowed La Salle to shoot 42% from the field and limited the Explorers to 27% from three.
The Rams face Rhode Island on the road on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN+