14th-ranked Rams butt heads with Monarchs
Norfolk, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Old Dominion Monarchs will play six of their next seven games at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, beginning on Saturday afternoon when they host the No. 14 Virginia Commonwealth Rams.
VCU participated in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn earlier in the week, and after suffering its first loss of the season to Villanova on Monday (77-53), it bounced back by defeating Oregon on Tuesday (77-63). The Rams are 4-1 on the season and begin a two-game road trip on Saturday.
ODU was also part of a holiday tournament, as it claimed third place in the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam last weekend. After beating LSU in the opening round (70-61) and losing to Illinois State in the semifinals (64-45), the Monarchs improved to 4-1 on the season with a 58-46 triumph versus Gardner-Webb to salvage their stay.
These intrastate foes have become well acquainted over the years, with VCU holding a slim 47-42 advantage in the all-time series. The Rams won last year's matchup in Richmond, 69-48.
The Rams carried a 35-27 lead at the half of their most recent game and held onto the advantage for the entire second stanza en route to the 14-point victory. They shined on both ends of the floor, shooting 50 percent from the field while holding Oregon to 37.5 percent and forcing 20 turnovers. All five starters scored in double figures in the triumph, led by Melvin Johnson's 19. Briante Weber tallied a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists while swiping four steals as well. Treveon Graham (13 points), Jordan Burgess (12) and Mo Alie-Cox (10) were also stellar.
On the season, VCU has had no problems generating offense, as it shoots 46.1 percent from the field for 81.6 ppg, which is more than enough to support its defensive effort (70.6 ppg). It also lives comfortably with its rebounding (+4.2) and turnover (+4.2) margins. Johnson puts up 17.4 ppg and does a majority of his damage from 3-point range (14-of-34). Graham brings 14.2 ppg to the table and Weber (11.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg) is one of the nation's elite perimeter defenders with more than four steals per contest.
The Monarchs pulled away late in their latest contest to capture a 12-point win and third place in the Paradise Jam. They shot just 38.9 percent from the field but it didn't matter much considering their outstanding play on the other end of the floor, as they held Gardner-Webb to a mere 29.1 percent shooting. Trey Freeman shined in the victory with 22 points on 9-of-17 from the floor. Richard Ross chipped in 12 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and a steal to the win.
Defense has been ODU's speciality this season, as it gives up a lowly 56.8 ppg on 38.5 percent field goal shooting, but unfortunately it is barely able to support its lock-down defense, scoring just 62.4 ppg itself with lackluster percentages from the field (.412) and the free-throw line (.634). Freeman is the Monarchs' unquestioned go-to performer with 19.8 ppg and he has just seven turnovers through five games. Ross (11.0 ppg) is the only other player averaging in double figures with 11.0 ppg to go with 5.4 rpg and nearly two blocks per outing.