While VCU could be without one guard Tuesday night, it will have the services of another.
As sophomore JeQuan Lewis continues to recover from a concussion, defensive standout Briante Weber will be available for the No. 15 Rams when they host a talented Toledo team in this regional matchup of the Legends Classic.
The two-time Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of Year, Weber led the nation with 121 steals last season and needs 90 to break the NCAA career mark of 385 set by Providence’s John Linehan from 1998-2002. However, Weber’s senior season got off to a rocky start after he was suspended for Friday’s 85-69 victory over Tennessee for reportedly stealing an iPhone over the summer.
"He certainly needs to learn a lesson, and be ready to go," coach Shaka Smart said on VCU’s official Twitter account about Weber, who averaged 9.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and a team-high 3.9 assists in 2013-14.
"It’s good to have Briante back either way," said Smart, whose teams have averaged 11.2 steals while leading the country in that category for each of the last three seasons.
"We’re just a different team when he’s in the game on defense."
The Rams fared well Friday without Weber, holding Tennessee to 42.1 percent from the field, recording 10 steals and scoring 26 points off 19 turnovers to overcome its own 40.3-percent shooting effort.
Lewis made his only 3-point attempt, recorded two assists, a steal and also committed three turnovers before he left after banging his head on the court with 8:19 remaining in the first half. Lewis earned the start following a solid freshman season in which he averaged 5.9 points and 2.0 assists in 16.1 minutes a game for the 26-9 Rams.
"JeQuan is doing well," Smart said. "Really making a lot of progress. He was asymptomatic after the game.
"He has not been ruled out, but it also has not been determined that he’ll play."
Melvin Johnson scored 23 points and Treveon Graham had 15 with 14 rebounds as the Rams managed to hold their ground without their point guard Friday.
”I thought (Johnson and Lewis) did a good job of leading our team when we could have gotten a little bit frazzled,” Smart said.
VCU would prefer to be at full strength against Toledo, which returns four starters from last season’s 27-7 squad that earned a share of the Mid-American Conference’s West Division title.
Smart called Toledo guard Julius Brown "one of the best guards I’ve ever seen on tape." The senior averaged team highs of 14.9 points and 6.0 assists last season, and had 10 with eight assists in the Rockets’ 71-58 opening victory over Northern Arizona on Sunday.
Junior center Nathan Boothe scored 19 and pulled down six rebounds.
The Rockets ranked among the top teams in the nation last season with just 10.2 turnovers per contest, but must improve against the Rams’ swarming defense after committing 17 on Sunday.
"We’ve got to value the basketball," swingman Justin Drummond said.
The Rockets have dropped nine straight games against ranked opponents since an 81-76 victory at No. 14 Michigan State in 2002.
Toledo won the only previous meeting with VCU, 60-59, at the 2006 Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands.