Richmond, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Tied for first place in the Atlantic 10 Conference entering action on Wednesday, the 20th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth Rams play host to the La Salle Explorers at the Siegel Center.
The Rams, who recently lost Briante Weber to right knee surgery and could be without leading scorer Treveon Graham (16.2 ppg) because of a sprained ankle, are locked in a first-place tie with Rhode Island at 8-2 in conference. However, since starting out the league slate with seven straight victories, VCU has dropped two of the last three.
The latest setback took place over the weekend at St. Bonaventure on a buzzer- beating shot that provided the Bonnies with a 73-71 victory.
As for the Explorers, they are stuck in the middle of the pack in the A-10 with a split of 10 contests. On Sunday, the team was taken out by UMass on the road, 66-59, bringing an end to a three-game win streak.
With respect to the all-time series, VCU has won all but one of the previous five encounters. However, the last time the Explorers played at VCU the visitors posted a 69-61 victory over a nationally-ranked Rams group in 2013.
The Explorers dug themselves a seven-point hole at the intermission against UMass when they allowed the Minutemen to shoot 57.7 percent from the floor, including 5-of-8 behind the 3-point line. La Salle was able to stay even with UMass in the second half, but by then it was too late. Jordan Price did all he could to keep the visitors competitive as he tallied a game-high 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the floor, but no one else reached double-digit scoring. Steve Zack accounted for a game-high 13 rebounds in defeat.
During conference battles, Price has produced 13.9 ppg, but that number was certainly boosted quite a bit from his efforts against UMass. He is still shooting only 38.2 percent from the field and 26.5 percent beyond the arc. Jerrell Wright and Cleon Roberts step up with 11.6 and 11.3 ppg, respectively, but this is a group that has managed to produce only 58.9 ppg. Luckily, the La Salle defense is holding A-10 foes to just 59.2 ppg at the same time.
Despite falling behind by a 9-1 score early on, the Rams made things interesting against St. Bonaventure over the weekend, but when it counted the most the defense for VCU came up short as it allowed Marcus Posley to register the game-winning layup at the buzzer. Terry Larrier dropped in 15 points and cleared seven rebounds off the bench, followed by Jequan Lewis who scored 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting behind the 3-point line. Melvin Johnson tacked on 11 points and Jordan Burgess nine and 11 boards in the setback.
Without Graham, a 41.1 percent shooter from beyond the arc, the only active player putting up double figures for the Rams is Johnson with his 13.0 ppg. Johnson has made the most 3-pointers (54), but he needs teammates to step up and provide better support if the Rams are going to survive their recent losses on the roster.