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.