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.