Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
For nearly the six final minutes of the contest, VCU didn’t record a field goal and didn’t need to. The Rams converted six free throws down the stretch to fend off St. Bonaventure’s second-half surge.
Men’s basketball hung on to knock off the Bonnies from the top of the Atlantic 10 with a 67-64 win Friday at the Stuart C. Siegel Center behind sophomore guard Bones Hyland’s 22 points.
The win vaulted the Rams into first place in the Atlantic 10 standings, a half game ahead of the Bonnies.
“We all feel as though we can do way more honestly,” Hyland said. “It’s a great achievement, but we’re just not walking around here with happy faces. … I mean, it’s regular to us, honestly.”
Junior forward Vince Williams added 11 points and nine rebounds in the win.
The game got off to a slow start for the Rams as freshman guard Ace Baldwin converted on a layup just over three and a half minutes into the contest.
St. Bonaventure didn’t have the issue as Jalen Adaway scored the first 9 points for the Bonnies, giving them an early 7-point lead. Adaway logged 15 of his 23 points in the first half.
Hyland pulled the Rams within 2 points with a 3-pointer from the top of the key early in the half.
The Rams’ Havoc defense made itself known early, holding the Bonnies without a field goal for more than four minutes. The black and gold took advantage, taking a 2-point lead. The Bonnies had an answer, scoring 4-straight points.
Freshman forward Jamir Watkins’ layup midway through the half ended an almost four-minute stretch without a field goal. Baldwin did his best Hyland impression, nailing a 3-pointer from the top of the key to take a 3-point lead.
The Rams closed the half on a 9-2 run, sparked by a deep Hyland 3-pointer from the left wing. The run gave VCU its largest lead of the first half at 7 points.
When the Rams squared off with the Bonnies on Jan. 20, VCU led by 15 at the half and lost 70-54. Coach Mike Rhoades said he reminded his team of that meeting.
“I mentioned it, I said ‘hey, we used a run in the last two minutes of the half to make a run last time we played them,” Rhoades said. “I said, ‘We just did the same thing, what are we going to do coming out of here? Build on this momentum and one possession at a time.’”
Senior forward Corey Douglas said the emphasis of the second half was to be aggressive.
“We knew going into the second half that we needed to keep our foot on the pedal, especially from last game where we kind of relaxed a little bit,” Douglas said. “The emphasis was to come out and the first couple minutes and get right to it.”
Senior forward Levi Stockard III made his presence known in the second half, scoring 6 points in the first four minutes of the period — all in the paint. He logged all 8 of his points in the final 20 minutes.
The Rams had periods of droughts in the second half, including a field goal drought that lasted just over four minutes. The Bonnies were able to take advantage of them, slowly cutting into VCU’s lead and making it a 2-point game midway through the second half.
VCU went on an 8-0 run to push its lead to 10, holding the Bonnies without a point for just under three and a half minutes late in the game.
“I think we had the same game plan, we just had to finish the game this time — we just had to stay together, and coach was emphasizing together in everything we do,” Williams said. “Even though they came back, we stood tall and came out with the victory.”
The Bonnies didn’t go down without a fight as Adaway hit a jumper to cut the VCU lead to 3 points. From there, it was trading a St. Bonaventure basket with free throws to maintain the lead.
VCU outrebounded St. Bonaventure 43-34, including 19-10 on the offensive glass.
“It was definitely a momentum booster, getting some tip outs, getting some big shots,” Douglas said of the offensive rebounds. “It definitely flipped the game for us, I feel like.”