Richmond, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 25th-ranked Rams of Virginia Commonwealth will try to keep pace in the race for the Atlantic 10 Conference crown, as they entertain the Saint Louis Billikens at the Siegel Center on Tuesday night.
Saint Louis is hoping to stop a three-game slide and post only its second win in the last month. The Billikens, who were 81-68 losers at Rhode Island this past Saturday, are five games under .500 on the season (10-15), and they've won only two of their first 12 conference clashes. SLU has lost seven straight road games, and is just 2-8 away from home all told when you factor in its 1-1 mark in neutral-site affairs.
Virginia Commonwealth has spent the majority of the season among the nationally ranked, but since going on a 12-game win streak from Dec. 13-Jan. 27, the team has gone just 2-3. A 79-66 win at George Washington on Saturday put an end to a brief two-game skid, and improved the Rams to 19-6 overall and 9-3 in conference, the latter of which has the team tied with Dayton, Rhode Island and Massachusetts for first place in the A-10 standings.
These two clubs met in St. Louis back on Jan. 23, and the Rams used a 21-point performance from Treveon Graham and 15 more from Briante Weber, now out for the season with a knee injury, to survive in a 63-61 final. As a result, VCU has won the last two meetings and is now 4-3 in the all-time series.
Miles Reynolds came off the bench to net 21 points, 13 of which he earned at the free-throw line, and he was joined in double figures by starters Davell Roby (15 pts.) and Milik Yarbrough (14 pts.), but the Billikens still found a way to lose last Saturday's game at Rhode Island. Roby converted all 10 of his foul shots, helping Saint Louis go 26-of-34 at the stripe. The team shot 51.4 percent from the floor, but missed two-thirds of its 12 3-point tries, while the Rams went 6-of-15 from distance and 27-of-33 at the free-throw line. The biggest disappointment for the visitors was the fact that they committed 22 turnovers, which led to 32 points for the home team.
Saint Louis is the weakest offensive team in the Atlantic 10, netting just 60.8 ppg, and only one player is averaging double digits at the moment. Yarbrough (10.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg) leads the club both in scoring and rebounding, and he receives very little in the way of assistance with Ash Yacabou next in both categories with 9.6 points and 4.8 caroms per contest. The Billikens' defensive effort, which in the past has been their calling card, results in foes netting 65.4 ppg, and their field goal percentage defense of .446 ranks them 13th in the 14-team league. They also sit next-to-last in rebounding margin (-3.6), while bringing up the rear in blocked shots (2.5 bpg).
Melvin Johnson drained five 3-pointers en route to 17 points, as he led five players in double figures in VCU's recent win over George Washington. Doug Brooks hit four treys on his way to 14 points, and three others chipped in with 10 points apiece for the Rams, who made good on 45.6 percent of their field goal attempts, which included a dozen 3-pointers, and they took advantage of some careless basketball by the Colonials by scoring 21 points off 16 turnovers. In addition, VCU's bench outscored GW's, 25-10.
Graham and Johnson continue to spearhead VCU's offensive attack, as they average 15.9 and 13.2 ppg, respectively, the team generating 73.8 ppg to rank second in the A-10. The Rams have also done a decent job keeping the opposition at bay, yielding 65.5 ppg while leading the league in both steals (10.0 spg) and turnover margin (+6.76). One of the few negatives in an otherwise impressive campaign for VCU is the fact that it is in the red when it comes to rebounding margin (-2.6).