VCU-St. Bonaventure Preview
Life without starting point guard Briante Weber figured to be hard enough for VCU. An extended absence from leading scorer and rebounder Treveon Graham would appear to make continued success extremely difficult.
After winning their first game without Weber, the No. 18 Rams could have another major hurdle to overcome Saturday when they visit St. Bonaventure.
VCU (18-4, 8-1 Atlantic 10) absorbed a crushing blow last Saturday when Weber, the engine for the 'Havoc' system the Rams utilize, was lost for the season with torn knee ligaments suffered in a 64-55 loss to Richmond. Weber was the team's third-leading scorer and has led the nation in steals by a wide margin since the start of 2012-13.
That defeat snapped a 12-game winning streak for VCU, which bounced back with a 72-60 victory at George Mason on Wednesday despite losing Graham after he re-injured the left ankle he sprained last month.
Graham, who did not play in the second half, is averaging 16.2 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 46.9 percent overall and 41.1 percent from 3-point range. A potential Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, Graham first injured his ankle Jan. 13 against Rhode Island and ended up sitting out the next game.
''He got hit pretty hard in the same spot where he sustained the high ankle sprain,'' coach Shaka Smart said. ''He's obviously not been 100 percent since he had that injury three weeks ago. He got hit and you could see he was in a lot of pain. He was doubled over there.''
Melvin Johnson helped compensate for the absences Wednesday, scoring a game-high 17 points after totaling 22 in his previous three games. JeQuan Lewis - Weber's replacement - scored 11 of his 13 in the second half and had four assists.
''I try to be more of a vocal leader,'' said Lewis. ''That's my game.''
Also making contributions were freshman Justin Tillman and sophomore Doug Brooks, who combined for 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting and six rebounds.
The Rams clearly missed Graham on the boards as the Patriots held a 43-27 rebounding advantage. They did, however, force 18 turnovers and held George Mason to 36.2 percent from the field.
VCU opponents are shooting 34.4 percent over the past three games.
A road contest against St. Bonaventure presents its own set of challenges and the possibility of playing without Graham makes this a tough test for the Rams, winners of seven straight on the road.
The Bonnies (12-8, 5-4) made coach Mark Schmidt's 200th career victory a memorable one, beating Davidson 62-61 on Wednesday as Marcus Posley nailed a jumper at the buzzer after driving the length of the floor. Posley finished with 19 points and Youssou Ndoye added 16, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Schmidt's team held the Wildcats to a season-low 61 points and snapped their 15-game home win streak.
Posley ranks second in the Atlantic 10 with 17.2 points, and it's no secret that keeping him in check goes a long way toward beating St. Bonaventure. The junior guard has averaged 25.0 points on 47.8 percent shooting in the team's last four wins compared to 5.3 points on 22.2 percent in its past three losses.
Since losing 26 straight to ranked opponents, the Bonnies have won their last two such contests - both last season.
VCU has won the last two meetings with St. Bonaventure, including an 86-67 home rout on March 8.