Pittsburgh, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Playing the second of three straight games on the road, the 17th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth Rams clash with the Duquesne Dukes at CONSOL Energy Center in Atlantic 10 Conference action on Saturday afternoon.
Along with Dayton, the Rams have yet to be defeated by an A-10 opponent through four games and have matched the Flyers in overall wins in the league with 14. Since losing to in-state rival Virginia, one of only two teams still undefeated at the Division I level, the other being top-ranked Kentucky, the Rams have rattled off nine consecutive victories.
The majority of the wins during the current streak for VCU have come by double figures, but that isn't how the meeting with Rhode Island could be described four days ago when VCU captured a 65-60 win against the other Rams in the A-10.
The Dukes, who typically play home games at the Palumbo Center, have a total of just six wins in 15 opportunities this season and the first two triumphs came against Bluefield State and Abilene Christian, another being logged versus UMass-Lowell. Clearly this is a Duquesne program that has taken a few steps backwards as it tries to bounce back from a 78-69 loss at Saint Louis three days ago.
VCU won the previous two meetings between the programs, the latest being an 80-65 victory at home last season. The teams played in this facility around this time in 2013, with the Rams picking up a comfortable 90-63 win.
The trip to Rhode Island was anything but routine for VCU as the visitors fell behind by nine points in the first half and had to scramble after the break to pull out the narrow win. Virginia Commonwealth shot a woeful 9-of-21 at the free-throw line, 8-of-24 behind the 3-point line and lost the battle on the boards, 44-32, yet still found a way to come out on top.
Treveon Graham carried the load with a game-high 26 points, converting 4-of-8 shots out on the perimeter and 10-of-17 from the floor overall, in addition to adding eight rebounds, while Mo Alie-Cox responded with 10 points and Melvin Johnson nine, the latter hitting just 3-of-12 from the floor.
Graham is scoring 16.5 ppg to lead the Rams, hitting an impressive 45.1 percent of his 3-point tries while also clearing out some space in the paint in order to capture a team-best 6.8 rpg as well. Johnson, who has a team-high 42 triples, adds another 14.2 ppg to the attack and even though the scoring drops off considerably after that, VCU is still coming up with an impressive 76.8 ppg.
Duquesne led by as many as seven points in the first half against Saint Louis in the latest outing, but based on the fact that the Dukes made good on a horrendous 13-of-34 at the free-throw line, the visitors didn't deserve to even be in the same neighborhood with the Billikens. Micah Mason was the only player to score in double figures for Duquesne with 12 points, while Dominique McKoy came within a point of a double-double as he tallied a game-high 12 rebounds.
The leading scorer for the Dukes in two straight outings and five of the last seven, Mason is one of two putting up double digits on a consistent basis for the program with 10.7 ppg, thanks to his 41.8 percent shooting behind the 3- point line. Just ahead of him on the list is Derrick Colter with 12.4 ppg as he too exceeds expectations beyond the arc with 53.5 percent accuracy.