VCU took some lumps during non-conference play, but a challenging schedule appears to be paying off as they continue to roll through the Atlantic 10.
The 14th-ranked Rams try to match their longest winning streak under Shaka Smart when they host intracity rival Richmond on Saturday.
VCU (17-3, 7-0) faced one of the nation’s most difficult non-conference slates, losing by a combined 41 points against current top-10 teams in Villanova and Virginia and beating No. 18 Northern Iowa in double overtime.
They haven’t lost since falling to the Cavaliers on Dec. 6, limiting teams to 61.5 points per game on 39.9 percent shooting after allowing an average of 70.3 points and 47.3 percent shooting in their first eight.
VCU turned in perhaps its best defensive performance yet Tuesday, dismantling George Washington in a 72-48 victory by holding the Colonials to 26.9 percent shooting after they had won 10 of 11.
The Rams are now a win away from matching the longest successful stretch in Smart’s tenure, a 13-game run from Nov. 28, 2012-Jan. 19, 2013.
"I think it’s the best one we’ve had in a while, that’s for sure," Smart said of his team’s defensive performance. " … I think our guys really did a good job bringing a little enthusiasm to the defensive end."
George Washington was 1 of 17 from 3-point range and had one field goal over a nearly 16-minute stretch in the second half. Seventeen of the Colonials’ 27 second-half points came from the free-throw line, though, something VCU forward Mo Alie-Cox interpreted as a shortcoming.
"We’ve got to guard the ball better," Alie-Cox told the school’s official website. "The majority of their points came from the foul line in the second half. We don’t foul them, they really don’t score half those points."
VCU cruised despite leading scorer Traveon Graham being limited to seven points, more than 10 below his average coming in.
The Rams have won 11 of 13 from Richmond and eight straight at home. They held the Spiders to 36.9 percent shooting while sweeping three meetings in 2013-14.
Richmond (11-9, 4-3) has won four of six with the victories coming by an average of 21.5 points while the losses were by a combined six points, including a double-overtime loss at George Washington on Jan. 15.
The Spiders fell to 0-7 on the road with last Saturday’s 63-60 loss at then-No. 22 Dayton, though they bounced back Wednesday in an 86-55 home win against Duquesne. ShawnDre’ Jones had a career-high 27 points and hit four 3-pointers as Richmond went 13 of 30 from deep.
Richmond ranks second in the conference in scoring (72.4) and field-goal percentage (49.7) during league play. The Rams have held their last four opponents to 18.6 percent shooting from 3-point range after teams had previously shot 36.8 percent from deep.
Spiders guard Kendall Anthony, who hit four 3-pointers against Duquesne, matched a career high with 31 points in last season’s 81-70 loss at VCU.
Richmond ranks among Division I’s top 10 in fewest turnovers committed per game at 9.8, while the Rams are one of the leaders in turnovers forced at 17.6.
The Spiders have lost 14 straight road games against ranked opponents since a 69-68 win at No. 12 Kansas on Jan. 22, 2004. VCU has won 26 straight home games versus unranked teams.