VCU-Saint Louis Preview
The size and strength of Saint Louis guard Jordair Jett has an opposing coach believing he has a future in the NFL, but it was Jett's shot-making ability that kept the Billikens' winning streak alive.
Saint Louis may need another impressive effort from the senior Saturday when it takes on Virginia Commonwealth for the first time since last season's Atlantic 10 title game.
The 12th-ranked Billikens look for their single-season school-record 17th straight victory while the visiting Rams try to close within one-half game of the conference leaders.
Jett stepped up with 19 of his 25 points in the second half - including the go-ahead basket with four seconds left - and the Billikens (22-2, 9-0) stayed tied for the nation's fourth-longest run with a 65-63 victory at LaSalle last Saturday.
Since averaging 10.5 points in 15 non-conference contests, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Jett has taken his game to another level in A-10 play with a 17.8 scoring average that ranks third in the league.
"If he doesn't have a career in the NBA, I think he could in the NFL, if his 40 time is good enough," Explorers coach John Giannini said. "And I'm not joking about that. His strength and his mental toughness and his physicality are at the highest level you can find on a basketball court.''
Dwayne Evans, averaging a team-best 14.5 points, scored 14 as the Billikens extended the best start in school history with their 16th straight win. They also won 16 in a row spanning two seasons in 1947-48 and 1948-49.
''Our guys do a great job keeping things in perspective,'' said coach Jim Crews, who has guided Saint Louis to its best start in league play since an 11-0 start in the Missouri Valley Conference in 1946-47.
Now the Billikens will try to stay focused as they brace for a difficult test against second-place VCU (20-5, 8-2), which has won seven of eight to secure its eighth straight 20-win season.
Treveon Graham finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds to help the Rams cruise to a 92-75 home win over George Washington on Wednesday. Graham, leading VCU with 15.6 points per game, bounced back after averaging 11.3 points on 34.1 percent shooting in his previous four games.
The junior guard had 20 points and 12 boards against No. 16 Saint Louis last March, but the 25th-ranked Rams fell short of the A-10 tournament title in a 62-56 loss in New York.
Evans led the Billikens with 16 points and eight rebounds en route to tourney MVP honors. He also contributed 14 points and eight boards, while Jett scored a team-high 16 in a 76-62 win in the most recent meeting in St. Louis on Feb. 19, 2013.
"Saint Louis is literally playing as well as anyone in the country and they've got a guy who has played as well as anyone in the league in Jett and another guy in Evans - who is terrific," Rams coach Shaka Smart said. "Great, great opportunity for us."
VCU's Juvonte Reddic, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds in last year's trip to St. Louis, has averaged 20.7 points in his last three road games heading into this meeting.
While the Rams rank second in the A-10 with a 76.5 scoring average, they could have a tough time maintaining that production against a Saint Louis team that ranks eighth nationally in scoring defense at 58.8 points per game.
VCU seeks its second victory in as many games against a ranked opponent, pulling out a 59-56 win at then-No. 25 Virginia on Nov. 12.