Entering Sunday the Belmont Bruins were the owners of the nation’s longest home court win streak, winning 23 straight games at the Curb Events Center. With No. 24 VCU being the first-ever ranked opponent to visit the arena, it was clear that the streak would be put to the test. And sure enough the Rams were able to use their advantage inside to pull away from Belmont, winning 81-68 with Juvonte Reddic leading four players in double figures with 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds.
Using their “havoc” defense VCU was able to force 21 Belmont turnovers, but at only a plus-8 in points off of turnovers (21-13) converting those opportunities isn’t where Shaka Smart’s team did its best work. The Rams were most effective in the paint, as they outscored Belmont 40-22 in the points in the paint category. VCU gained separation with a 22-2 second half run and the Rams were also more efficient during the game’s final 20 minutes, shooting 61.5% from the field (14-for-18 2PT) and scoring 1.19 points per possession.
The Rams scored 22 of their 40 paint points and three players scored at least nine points during the game’s final 20 minutes. Melvin Johnson and Treveon Graham, who’s come off the bench in each of the last two games (health reasons), scored 16 points apiece and freshman JeQuan Lewis added 12. Lewis’ output may be the biggest development going forward, especially when considering the offensive production the Rams tend to receive from Reddic, Johnson, Graham and guard Briante Weber.
Lewis entered Sunday averaging 3.9 points per game, going scoreless in two contests and reaching double figures just once (in a win over Winthrop). Against Belmont the freshman shot 4-for-7 from the field while also dishing out three assists, scoring nine of those points in the second half. If Lewis can build on his outing Sunday, that gives VCU a needed scoring option off the bench.
Would it be realistic to expect double figure outings from Lewis on a consistent basis? Not yet, and VCU doesn’t have to with the scoring options they already have. But the Rams do need something from those other reserves as they approach Atlantic 10 play, and if Lewis can step up VCU will be better for it.