Richmond, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Something has to give in Saturday's Atlantic 10 Conference clash between the 10th-ranked Saint Louis Billikens and the Rams of VCU.
Saint Louis comes in sporting a 10-0 mark in true road games, while VCU has been perfect at home with a record of 13-0.
The Billikens recently had their 19-game win streak halted, as they dropped a 71-64 decision at home to Duquesne. With the setback, Saint Louis is 25-3 overall and 12-1 in conference, holding a two-game lead on the second-place Saint Joseph's with three games to go, including this one. The Billikens will close out the regular season against Dayton at home, followed by a road clash at UMass, and a win in any of them would earn the team at least a share of the A-10 regular-season title.
VCU brings a 21-7 record into this contest, which includes a 9-4 league ledger. The Rams are currently tied with UMass for third place in the A-10 standings, and they would have to win out against Saint Louis here, the Minutemen and Fordham, and hope for a lot of help if they have any shot at finishing at the top of the conference heap.
Saint Louis topped VCU in the first meeting between the two earlier this season, winning at home in a 64-62 decision just two weeks ago. That victory for the Billikens snapped a 2-2 tie in the all-time series.
The recent loss to Duquesne was SLU's first in nearly three months, and it came about as a result of a substantial 18-2 second-half run by the Dukes, who overcame a four-point halftime deficit to win for only the second time in the last eight games. Four of the five starters for Saint Louis scored in double figures, led by Mike McCall, Jr. with 18 points. Dwayne Evans logged a double- double consisting of 10 points and 12 rebounds, but the Billikens shot just 40.4 percent from the floor, while missing the mark on 19 of their 23 3-point attempts. Conversely, DU hit 8-of-15 long-range tries, while taking advantage of 16 SLU turnovers.
Saint Louis is the top defensive team in the Atlantic 10, and one of the best in the nation in keeping the opposition at bay. Foes are putting up just 60.2 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of only .393 overall and .276 from beyond the arc. The Billikens force more than 14 turnovers per outing, while coming out on the positive side of the rebounding battle most nights (+2.0). Offensively, the squad nets 70.9 ppg and boasts three double-digit scorers in Evans (14.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Jordair Jett (13.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg. 4.9 apg) and Rob Loe (10.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg). McCall, Jr. (9.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg) is close to joining the ranks.
Behind a double-double effort from Juvonte Reddic (22 points, 12 rebounds), VCU blew the doors off the Fordham Rams on Thursday night, prevailing in an 85-66 final. Rob Brandenberg and Melvin Johnson both hit for double digits as well, with the former netting 16 points and the latter 14 for a team that drained 10 3-pointers and claimed a massive 56-32 rebounding advantage. Also helping matters was the fact that the hometown Rams shot just 37.9 percent from the floor, which included a dismal 5-of-18 effort from distance.
For the season, VCU is scoring 75.9 ppg while permitting 66.4 ppg. The team doesn't shoot particularly well (.419 overall), but does a nice job defending the perimeter (.297). They are quite active in the turnover battle, goading the opposition into nearly 19 miscues per outing. Treveon Graham paces the unit with his 15.8 ppg, and he ranks second to Reddic (12.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg) in rebounding as he grabs 7.0 rpg. Johnson (10.5 ppg), Briante Weber (9.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.1 apg, national-best 3.7 spg) and Brandenberg (9.3 ppg) have all been solid contributors for the Rams.