St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Atlantic 10 Conference frontrunners are set for a marquee Saturday-afternoon showdown at Chaifetz Arena, as the 12th- ranked Saint Louis Billikens play host to the Virginia Commonwealth Rams.
VCU most recently downed George Washington at home on Wednesday night by a convincing 92-75 margin to take soul possession of second place in the A-10 at 8-2. The Rams are winners of seven of their past eight games to surge to 20-5 overall, although they have been simply modest on the road (4-3).
As good as VCU has been, Saint Louis has performed even better, winning 16 straight games, including all nine of its A-10 contests, to improve to an outstanding 22-2 on the season. The winning streak, the longest in Billikens' history, was extended last Saturday with a nail-biting 65-63 triumph at La Salle.
Saint Louis swept VCU in the 2012-13 season set to knot the all-time series up at two games apiece.
The Rams opened up a comfortable 17-point halftime lead over GW in their latest bout and cruised to win by that same margin. Although they were outshot from the field, 52.7 percent to 47.5 percent, they were a red-hot 13-of-25 from 3-point range and forced GW into 22 turnovers, which were converted into 29 points. Treveon Graham stuffed the stat sheet with 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while Melvin Johnson knocked down 5-of-8 from beyond the arc off the bench for 21 points. Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic netted 15 and 10 points, respectively, while Briante Weber recorded seven steals and dished out six assists.
VCU is regularly outshot from the field by its opponents, as it nets 42.1 percent this season and allows 43.7 percent, but it still owns an outstanding +10.5 scoring margin by ranking first in the nation in steals per game (11.8) and tied for first in turnover margin (+7.0). It also drains 7.6 3-pointers per game a 42.1 percent clip. Graham leads the way with 15.6 ppg to go with 6.9 rpg. Reddic is a mainstay in the frontcourt with 12.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 1.1 bpg, while shooting 53 percent from the field. Johnson (10.7 ppg), Brandenberg (9.4 ppg) and Weber (9.3 ppg) round out the balanced scoring attack. Weber also hands out 4.1 apg and leads the nation with 3.8 spg.
The Billikens were locked up in a tight battle with La Salle last weekend, and with the game tied on their final possession, Jordair Jett drove to hoop for the game-winning layup with four seconds left to preserve their undefeated league mark. The team shot 47.2 percent from the field for a were led by Jett's 25 points, 19 of which came in the second half. Dwayne Evans poured in 14 points, while Rob Loe hauled in nine rebounds.
Saint Louis's offense has been respectable this season, as it shoots 44 percent from the field for 70.9 ppg, but the biggest reason for its rise into the elite has been its stout play on the other end of the floor, with its scoring defense (58.8 ppg) ranking in the top-10 nationally. It also lives in the positive in terms of its rebounding (+2.8) and turnover (+2.9) margins and boasts an impressive free-throw percentage as well (.725). Evans is the team- leader in scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 ppg) and shoots just shy of 50 percent from the field. Jett brings 13.2 ppg, 4.9 apg and 1.5 spg to the table, while Loe (9.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg), Mike McCall Jr. (8.9 ppg) and Austin McBroom (8.8 ppg) are also regular contributors.