After a huge road victory, the Virginia Commonwealth Rams returned home to defeat the Saint Louis Billikens, 74-54. The Rams are now on top of the Atlantic 10 conference standings with the victory against the struggling Billikens. VCU seems to have found its groove after losing Senior Guard Briante Weber due to a torn ACL. However, the biggest question going forward for the Rams is how Guard Treveon Graham’s ankle will hold up.
Saint Louis has now fallen to last place in the conference standings with the loss. The Billikens are in a rebuilding year, but it has been more growing pains than expected for this team. Last year, Saint Louis was in the midst of their best winning streak in school history, but this year, they are still struggling with a new roster that has been inconsistent. The Billikens’ inconsistency, especially on the offensive end of the floor, was on full display was they went on a severe scoring drought as they only scored 9 points from the 10:25 mark in the first half to the 15:10 mark in the second half; that’s a 15 minute stretch.
Treveon Graham scored the opening 8 points for the VCU Rams. Graham, who was coming off an ankle injury, had great explosiveness slashing to basket for some early buckets. He gave the Rams an early 8-2 advantage.
The "Havoc" pressure was getting to Saint Louis Freshman Guard Miles Reynolds, who was in his first career start. After the media timeout, Guards Austin McBroom and Marcus Bartley came into the game who appeared calmer in the face of the VCU pressure. They found Milik Yarbrough who scored SLU’s first six points by taking advantage of mismatches in the post. VCU began to key in on Yarbrough by double teaming him. Yarbrough wisely passed the ball of the McBroom who knocked down a 3-pointer. The guard play and Yarbrough’s play allowed the Billikens to go on a 10-0 run capped off by Center Austin Gillmann 3-pointer to take the 14-12 lead.
Saint Louis however struggled to sustain their offensive production as they made one more field goal, but then went on scoring drought for nearly 8 minutes. This SLU scoring drought allowed VCU to reclaim the lead.
The Rams went to a 20-5 run during the last 10 minutes of the first half. The run started on a Melvin Johnson 3-pointer to tie the game at 17. The VCU pressure forced 4 turnovers during this stretch as the Billikens struggled to make a bucket. The Billikens focused on Graham, but he distributed the ball to Guard JeQuan Lewis and Forward Michael Gilmore who scored some key buckets during this run. The Rams aggressively attacked the bucket as Saint Louis could not get anything going on both ends of the floor. SLU’s poor shooting and VCU’s pressure gave them a 12 point lead going into halftime.
VCU quickly expanded its lead in the second half. The Rams opened the half by forcing Saint Louis to commit a shot clock violation. On the other end of the floor, Melvin Johnson hit a 3-pointer to start the scoring fest for VCU. The Rams shot 47.8 percent in the second half.
SLU continued to struggle as they only made two field goals in the opening nine minutes of the second half. They struggled to get anything going, the only consistent player for SLU was Milik Yarbrough as he was the only Billikens player who scored in double digits. They never cut the lead back down to single digits or had sustained offensive production.
The Rams had their most consistent game since the loss of their point guard Briante Weber. They pretty much dominated from start to finish as they forced 14 turnovers against the Billikens and out rebounded the Billikens 38 to 29.
The Billikens still have many questions going forward. Every scholarship player has now started for the Billikens, but they still have not found the right combination of players for a sustained rotation and need to figure out a combination by the end of the season.
VCU will remain at home to take on the UMass Minutemen on Saturday, Feb. 21st at 12 p.m. eastern time. Saint Louis will return home to take on the La Salle Explorers on Sunday Feb. 22nd at 2:30 p.m. eastern time.