Virginia Commonwealth and Butler have taken the biggest share of the national spotlight of teams in the Atlantic 10 this season. Newcomers to the league having so much success and finding their way in the national polls will do that.
But with first place in the conference (at least for the time being) on the line Tuesday, Saint Louis defended its home floor and made a statement with a 76-62 win over VCU at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Mo.
VCU and coach Shaka Smart have built their success on the effectiveness of the “Havoc” defense, forcing turnovers and translating those miscues into points. In response to that Tuesday, Saint Louis turned the ball over just eight times and shot 55 percent from the floor. The Billikens forced VCU to foul and converted 17-of-23 shots from the free throw line.
Ultimately, it comes down to toughness, experience, and defense for the Billikens, which is why they are built to compete down the stretch in the A-10 race and even the NCAA tournament. They handled VCU with poise, while flipping the script and forcing the Rams into rushed shots, bad possessions, and a long night overall. A VCU team that averages close to 80 points per game was held to just 62.
They did the same to No. 9 Butler earlier in the year. The big question will be, can they do it again? Saint Louis travels to Butler for a big-time matchup Friday at Hinkle Fieldhouse.