By: Ben Malakoff
Fresh off of a nail-biting one-point win over Texas, the Rams have to prepare for an even tougher test as they travel to Charlottesville to play the University of Virginia on Sunday.
The victory over the Longhorns not only brought the Rams back on track two games after a devastating loss against rival Old Dominion, but coach Mike Rhoades and the VCU faithful can finally say they took the havoc back from former VCU coach and current Texas coach Shaka Smart.
VCU, 7-2, was able to get the job done in Texas with strong defense. The Longhorns leading season scorer, Kerwin Roach, scored just four points. The Rams added on with seven steals and forced Texas to turn the ball over 18 times. Rhodes knows they will need to use the same tools to help them win this Sunday.
In Charlottesville, the No. 4 Cavaliers, 8-0, play the same type of game as the Rams. Coach Tony Bennett has created a defensive monster that ranks first in the nation in scoring defense holding opponents to just 51.5 points per game. With VCU’s struggling offense, averaging just 68.4 points per game, their defense will have to be stronger than ever to keep the score close.
On the bright side of things for the Rams, they are ranked 34th in the nation scoring defense holding teams to just 62.6 points per game. What is even more impressive is VCU ranks fourth in the NCAA in three-point field goal defense with opponents averaging just 23.9%. With the Cav’s averaging 74.8 points per game, the havoc defense Coach Rhodes has brought back to Richmond will be given the ultimate challenge.
UVA has three-star players who all average in double figures in points per game. De’Andre Hunter, 16.4, Ty Jerome, 13.6, and Kyle Guy, 13.3, are the three guys the Rams will need to shut down in order to win this tough road game.
The Rams, on the other hand, have two players averaging double figures in the points category every night. Redshirt-junior guards Marcus Evans, 14.3, and Issac Vann, 12.1 have been the reason VCU is able to stay in higher scoring games. Just missing the cut is De’Riante Jenkins who is averaging 9.9 points per game.
VCU has a version of their own secret weapon with sophomore forward Marcus Santos-Silva, who averages 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals a game. Santos-Silva has been the reason the Rams defense has been able to work well with the slower paced offense. Against Texas, Santos-Silva got himself a double-double with 16 rebounds and 10 points. After the game, Rhoades called him the best player on the court.
The Rams have the tools they need to compete against UVA. Through their last two games, their second-half play has improved. By beating the Cavaliers at the John Paul Jones Arena, Rhoades and VCU will look to shock the nation.
Listen in when VCU takes on UVA at 1:30 p.m. this Sunday live on WVCW Radio