Saint Joseph’s-VCU Preview
Saint Joseph’s was the Atlantic 10’s top shooting team last season when it surprised VCU to capture the tournament championship.
The No. 20 Rams figure to like their chances of gaining revenge this weekend.
VCU can post its eight straight win Saturday and 15th in a row at home in conference play when it meets the Hawks, who have plummeted into the A-10’s worst shooting team.
Saint Joseph’s (6-7, 0-2) was 2-0 against VCU last season, winning 69-62 at home Feb. 8 and 65-61 in the conference title game March 16 to gain its first NCAA tournament berth in six seasons.
The Hawks lost their top two scorers among three starters gone from that team that shot a conference-best 47.0 percent. The growing pains have been evident with Saint Joseph’s last this season at 40.6.
VCU (12-3, 2-0) figures to be confident after winning 71-65 over Davidson on Wednesday, limiting the conference’s highest-scoring team to 19.2 points below its average. The Rams harassed Wildcats top scorer Jack Gibbs into missing nine of 10 shots for 11 points.
"We’ve made some progress on defense," coach Shaka Smart said. "Early in the year we did not have a sense of urgency to defend the 3-point line, we did not have a sense of urgency to rotate and fix it."
Smart is employing his "Havoc" defense to force a conference-high 17.8 turnovers per game. His team has created 43 in A-10 play, and the coach gave 10 players at least 10 minutes Wednesday.
"I think the benefit of playing the way we play is we can come in with fresh guys, they can play with a high level of intensity, they can lift each other up and then they can come out and get a break and then new guys are ready to come in," Smart said. "Everyone has their way of doing it, this is our way."
Briante Weber leads the nation with 4.1 steals per game and has 353 for his career, tying him with Nebraska’s Cookie Belcher for fourth place on the all-time NCAA list.
Treveon Graham scored 15 points, and Melvin Johnson and freshman Terry Larrier each added 11 against Davidson.
Larrier is averaging 10.7 points on 50.0 percent shooting in his last three games. He shot 34.9 percent prior to that stretch.
"Being conference play now, I’ve played multiple college games now," Larrier said. "All the jitters are out, I’m fine, I’m ready to hoop."
Weber had seven steals in two wins over the Hawks two seasons ago before being limited to one in 2013-14.
DeAndre’ Bembry leads the Hawks in scoring (16.1), rebounding (6.5) and steals (2.0). He scored 18 in Wednesday’s 71-68 loss at Duquesne.
"We were asked if he’s doing too much," coach Phil Martelli said. "He better do too much."
Bembry totaled 31 points and 11 assists against the Rams last season.
Saint Joseph’s is off to its worst A-10 start since beginning 0-8 in 2010-11.