Saint Louis-VCU Preview
In what may have been a case of looking ahead, Saint Louis’ longest winning streak in school history was just snapped by an unlikely opponent.
Coach Jim Crews’ team doesn’t have much time to regroup for what is expected to be another tough battle against VCU.
The 10th-ranked Billikens will again try to clinch at least a share of the Atlantic 10 regular-season title Saturday when they visit the Rams, who have yet to lose at home.
Saint Louis (25-3, 12-1) put together 19 consecutive victories before coming undone in Thursday’s shocking 71-64 loss to Duquesne. The Billikens shot 4 of 23 from 3-point range against the Dukes, who were 14-point underdogs and hadn’t defeated a ranked team on the road since 1962.
"The streak didn’t really mean much to us," forward Dwayne Evans said. "It’s a tough loss because there’s a championship on the line, not just because it broke the streak."
Mike McCall Jr. had 18 points for the Billikens, who got eight points on 4-of-18 shooting from their bench.
"We just didn’t play well enough. We’ve played well and we’ve been fortunate. Tonight, we didn’t play well enough," Crews said. "We have no license that we’re going to win. One team’s going to win and one team’s going to lose. Whoever plays the best (wins). That’s how it is.
"We do the same thing whether we win or lose. We just try to clean up what we did wrong. We address those things we did wrong, we keep working on our fundamentals and try to get better and move on with the next team."
Things aren’t about to get any easier against VCU (21-7, 9-4), which has outscored foes by an average of 16.8 points in going 13-0 at home. However, Saint Louis – along with undefeated Wichita State – is one of just two schools with a perfect road record (10-0).
The Billikens got all they could handle from the Rams before pulling out a 64-62 home victory Feb. 15. Saint Louis, limiting teams to 27.6 percent from 3-point range to rank second in the country, held VCU to 2-of-16 shooting from beyond the arc.
"You’ve got two good teams that really compete against each other," Crews said afterward. "It was certainly a 15-rounder."
While the Rams fell 80-75 at Massachusetts in their next game, they got back on track with Thursday’s 85-66 rout of last-place Fordham. Juvonte Reddic led the way with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and fellow senior Rob Brandenberg scored 16 while going 4 for 4 from 3-point range.
VCU was 10 of 22 from beyond the arc, improving to 14-1 when shooting above 35.0 percent.
"When the 3-ball goes in, I think it helps the whole team because that’s what moves the scoreboard the fastest," coach Shaka Smart said recently. "Guys get fired up about making threes."
The Rams will surely be looking for a better showing from leading scorer Treveon Graham, who finished with a season-low four points while shooting 2 of 8 on Thursday. Graham, averaging 15.4 points, scored 16 but shot 6 of 19 against Saint Louis.
The Billikens have taken three straight in the series, though none of those wins came at VCU. They fell 68-56 in their only visit to Richmond on March 29, 2010.
Before losing at Saint Louis, the Rams won 59-56 at current-No. 12 Virginia on Nov. 12 in their only other matchup against a Top 25 team this season.