Tag: Dwayne Evans II

Shaka Smart

VCU hands No. 10 Saint Louis second consecutive defeat

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After beating George Washington one week ago to move to 12-0 in Atlantic 10 play, No. 10 Saint Louis looked to be well-positioned to win a second consecutive regular season conference title. However the gap between the Billikens and the rest of the conference has tightened considerably since then, with Jim Crews’ team now dealing with a two-game losing streak after dropping a 67-56 decision at VCU.

The result cuts Saint Louis’ lead to just one game with two left to play, and the issue for the Billikens has been the same in both defeats: turnovers. After turning the ball over 16 times in their 71-64 home loss to Duquesne on Wednesday night, Saint Louis committed 17 against VCU.

With their “havoc” system the Rams are going to force teams to turn the ball over more than they’re accustomed to. In the first meeting between the Billikens and Rams on February 15, Saint Louis finished the game with 14 turnovers. But they still managed to win 64-62. Why? Because they limited VCU’s ability to turn those mistakes into points on the other end, finishing the game even in points off of turnovers (14-14).

In the rematch that wasn’t the case, with the Rams holding a 15-point advantage in that category (23-8). VCU did a better job of defending ball screens, and they also did a far better job against forward Dwayne Evans II. Evans tallied 21 points and ten rebounds in the first meeting, but on Saturday he scored just four points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field.

Defensively it was once again a group effort for VCU, with Mo Alie-Cox coming off the bench to block five shots and Briante Weber (13 points, five rebounds) and Treveon Graham (17 points, eight rebounds) accounting for four and three steals respectively.

VCU is at it’s best when they’re capitalizing off of live-ball turnovers and second-chance opportunities, with both being areas they were able to take advantage of on Saturday. Due to their work defensively and on the boards the Rams were able to control the action despite shooting 39% from the field and 3-for-16 from beyond the arc. And if VCU is to enjoy greater success this month, they’ll need to continue to take advantage of these areas.

Micah Mason, Jerry Jones lead Duquesne to upset win over No. 10 Saint Louis (VIDEO)

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Having won 19 straight games No. 10 Saint Louis was well on its way to clinching a second consecutive Atlantic 10 regular season title, as they held a three-game lead on Saint Joseph’s entering Thursday’s home game against Duquesne. With a game at VCU on Saturday afternoon, the concern was that although Jim Crews’ rotation is full of veterans they could be caught looking ahead to that showdown.

Whether or not the Billikens were caught looking past the Dukes is up for debate, but either way Duquesne guard Micah Mason took advantage of the opportunity. Mason scored 22 points and dished out three assists to lead Jim Ferry’s team to the 71-64 upset win at Chaifetz Arena. Duquesne shot 55.6% from the field in the second half and received 24 points from its bench (19 from Jerry Jones) against Saint Louis, which didn’t look like the group that built a commanding lead in the Atlantic 10.

The Billikens have successfully navigated the perimeter shooting issues for much of this season, but that wasn’t the case against Duquesne as they shot 4-for-23 from beyond the arc. That SLU, which entered the game ranked eighth in the Atlantic 10 in three-point percentage (33.2%), would go through tough stretches shooting the basketball doesn’t come as a surprise although they have shot the ball better in conference play.

What did come as a surprise were the 16 turnovers committed by a team that ranks third in the conference in turnover margin and second in assist-to-turnover ratio. Nine of those turnovers were committed by seniors Jordair Jett (five) and Dwayne Evans II (four), and as a team the Billikens didn’t exhibit to sound decision-making that has factored into their climb up the national polls.

Saint Louis didn’t play its best basketball on Thursday night but it’s important to keep the result in perspective, as they still hold a two-game lead in the Atlantic 10 with three to play. Things can potentially get tighter with a loss at VCU, but the Billikens have won the last three meetings between the two programs. In order to beat the Rams again, Saint Louis will need to make perimeter shots at a higher clip than they did against Duquesne.

No. 12 Saint Louis wins 17th straight, establishes greater separation in Atlantic 10 race

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Boxing gifted the sports world the saying “styles make fights,” and that adage fit Saturday’s game between VCU and No. 12 Saint Louis quite well. VCU, through the use of its “HAVOC” system, would look to ramp up the tempo while the home standing Billikens would prefer to play in the half court. Possession-wise the game would favor the Rams, with each team getting 73 possessions on the afternoon.

But what happened within those possessions worked to Saint Louis’ advantage, and the end result was a 64-62 Billiken victory at Chaifetz Arena. Despite turning the ball over 17 times Jim Crews’ team broke even in points off turnovers (14 points apiece), and they limited the Rams to just four fast-break points while scoring 12 themselves. Those factors, along with VCU shooting just 38.5% from the field, contributed to Saint Louis extending its win streak to 17 games.

But just as important as the win streak, the longest in school history, is that the Billikens extended their lead in the Atlantic 10 to three games in the loss column with six contests left to be played.

VCU’s leading scorer, Treveon Graham, did score 16 points but he needed 19 shots (making six) in doing so and as a team the Rams made just two of their 16 attempts from beyond the arc. VCU entered Saturday’s game shooting better than 35% and scoring 30% of its points on three-pointers, but given how well SLU has defended the shot it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the Rams struggled in this area. To VCU’s credit they still had a chance to win late, going on a 9-0 run to tie the game at 53 with 2:17 to go.

But the Billikens responded, as they’ve done all season, going on a 7-0 run to regain control of the game.¬†Head coach Jim Crews, who deserves more publicity than he’s received when it comes to national Coach of the Year honors, has a group of veterans who simply make winning plays. Last week at La Salle it was Jordair Jett and this week it was Dwayne Evans II (21 points, ten rebounds) and Rob Loe, with the latter knocking down a critical three-pointer with 37 seconds remaining.

SLU doesn’t win “pretty,” and their foul shooting (16-for-27) left the door open for VCU, but it’s all about the result for a group that knows how to win games. And that’s a trait that makes Saint Louis capable of making a run come March.