VCU hands No. 10 Saint Louis its 2nd straight loss

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) While a trip to the NCAA tournament has become an expectation for Virginia Commonwealth lately, some analysts thought the Rams still had work to do to solidify their position in the field of 68. They should be able to breathe a little easier now.

Treveon Graham had 17 points and eight rebounds, and VCU added a quality win to its postseason resume by beating No. 10 Saint Louis 67-56 on Saturday night.

”It’s a big, big win,” Rams coach Shaka Smart said. ”They’re a top-10 team. It’s a huge win, but it’s not the only game we’re going to hang our hat on. That’s something for the tournament selection committee to look at.”

Briante Weber added 13 points and four steals for the Rams, who handed Saint Louis its second consecutive defeat following a school-record, 19-game winning streak. The Billikens were upset at home Thursday night by Duquesne, a 14-point underdog.

With another chance to clinch at least a tie for the Atlantic 10 regular-season championship, Saint Louis came up empty again. The Billikens lead St. Joseph’s by one game with two to play.

VCU has a road win over ACC champion Virginia, but a 1-3 record entering Saturday against Saint Louis and fellow NCAA tournament hopefuls Massachusetts and George Washington out of the Atlantic 10 had the Rams eager to shore up their postseason resume against the Billikens.

”For us, it’s a good win. We feel good about the progress we’ve made, but we’ve still got to get better,” Smart said.

The Rams (22-7, 10-4 Atlantic 10) never trailed but made just two of their first 13 shots in the second half. The Billikens (25-4, 12-2) weren’t much better, shooting 4 of 14 during the same 10-minute stretch.

”I don’t think you’d want to take this game and turn it into any kind of offensive clinic and sell it on the Internet,” Smart said. ”Offensively, it was a very similar game to (their meeting in St. Louis). The difference was that we were much better defensively and on the offensive glass.”

Jordair Jett and Rob Loe helped Saint Louis stay within striking distance, but Juvonte Reddic made two free throws and hit Rob Brandenburg with a fast-break lob to hold the Billikens at bay.

VCU’s lead did not dip below eight points the rest of the way, and Reddic provided the exclamation point with a dunk with 1:10 remaining.

Jett led Saint Louis with 18 points. Austin McBroom had 11 points off the bench and Loe grabbed nine rebounds but turned the ball over six times.

Leading scorer Dwayne Evans had just four points on 2-of-11 shooting after scoring 21 when the Billikens beat VCU 64-62 on Feb. 15 in St. Louis.

Reddic had 10 points for VCU, and Alie-Cox blocked five shots.

The Rams took control in the first half with their ”Havoc” press and ended a three-game losing streak in the series. Jarred Guest scored five points in an 11-3 spurt, putting back his own miss to start a three-point play.

Guest then rebounded a missed 3-pointer and drew a goaltending call from Loe while being fouled. Guest couldn’t complete the three-point play, but Graham was there to put back the miss.

”In the first half, their offensive rebounding was the biggest difference, and we turned it over a little too much,” Saint Louis coach Jim Crews said. ”It was tough to get traction. They had a little bit more than us, but I don’t think there was any real traction in that game.”

Saint Louis shot 50 percent in the first half, but attempted only 22 field goals to VCU’s 36. Nine turnovers contributed to that disparity as Graham made three steals before the break.