Two teams at opposite ends of the Atlantic 10 Conference standings meet in the Steel City on Saturday night, as the 22nd- ranked Virginia Commonwealth Rams tangle with the Duquesne Dukes.
At 15-3 overall, VCU is enjoying a tremendous regular season, and the team is ranked in the AP Top-25 for the first time since 1984-85. The Rams, who are playing their first season as member of the A-10 following a lengthy run in the Colonial Athletic Association, have won 12 straight games (tied for the nation's second-longest active winning streak), including their first three conference clashes. The most recent triumph occurred in a 92-86 overtime thriller against visiting Saint Joseph's on Thursday. VCU is 4-0 in true road games this year, and 5-2 outside of Richmond all told when you factor in its 1-2 mark in neutral-site affairs.
Duquesne is hoping to put the brakes on a five-game slide, which has dropped the team to 7-10 overall and 0-3 in conference. The Dukes suffered a 79-66 defeat at UMass on Thursday night, and they are happy to be back home where they have logged a 6-2 mark, and have won five of their last six. Unfortunately, the one loss during that span occurred in their last home game as they fell to Saint Joseph's in a 74-66 final last Saturday.
This bouts marks the first meeting between Virginia Commonwealth and Duquesne in men's basketball.
Treveon Graham scored 25 points, Darius Theus added 22 and Juvonte Reddic logged a double-double with 15 points and 17 rebounds to help VCU rally past Saint Joseph's in overtime a couple nights back. Rob Brandenburg chipped in with 12 points to round out the double-digit scorers for the Rams, who shot 48.7 percent from the field, but only 21.9 percent from 3-point range (7- of-32). As for the Hawks, they made good on 52.3 percent of their total shots, which included a 9-of-22 showing from beyond the arc. In addition to the Rams putting as many guys in double figures as they did, the primary reason they were able to prevail was the fact they turned the ball over only five times, compared to 20 miscues for SJU. VCU boasts four double-digit scorers on the season, with Graham's 16.0 ppg leading the way. Reddic accounts for 13.4 ppg while spearheading the club's rebounding effort with 7.9 per outing. The team as a whole puts up 78.7 ppg while allowing just 61.2 ppg. One glaring area of strength is in the turnover department, as VCU is guilty of 12.3 giveaways per game while goading the opposition into a whopping 21.3 per tilt.
Sean Johnson (14.2 ppg) and Derrick Colter (13.4 ppg) are the only two players averaging double-digits in the scoring column right now for Duquesne, the team as a whole netting 70.1 ppg despite shooting a lackluster 41.3 percent from the field. The 3-pointer drops at just a 31.9 percent clip. The Dukes struggle to defend the 3-pointer, as foes are draining 38.8 percent of their long-range launches in averaging a robust 73.7 ppg. Johnson certainly did his part in the recent loss at UMass, scoring a career-high 29 points on the strength of his 4-of-8 showing from beyond the arc, and Colter tacked on 14. Colter also handed out six assists, but committed a third of the team's 15 turnovers on the night. Collectively, the Dukes shot just 40.3 percent from the floor, compared to 46.8 percent for the Minutemen, and they were outscored in just about every conceivable way -- 34-24 in the paint; 14-8 off turnovers; 18-9 in second-chance points; 8-6 out on the break; 17-9 in bench points.