Game Preview: No.19 VCU v La Salle

8393341714_6e4594f57f_bTonight’s game features two teams coming off two very similar games with very different results.

The No.19 VCU Rams saw a 7-point lead vanish in the final 37 seconds of regulation, a shock they carried into overtime where the Rams were outscored 17-5 in the five minutes of extended time, losing their first A-10 conference game to crosstown rival Richmond.

La Salle was on the other end of a A-10 thriller, getting a game-winning layup from Ramon Galloway after trailing No.9 Butler with just eight seconds to play.

The Rams are a double-digit favorite to bounce back tonight, here’s the preview…

VCU (16-4, 4-1)
La Salle (13-5, 3-2)

A quick look at La Salle: The Explorers are the type of team that has given VCU fits this season. Led by a trio of experienced guards, La Salle is second to VCU in A-10 turnover margin at +4.06, and third best in the conference at holding on to the ball with just 11.7 turnovers per game. Senior Ramon Galloway leads their team and is third in the A-10 in scoring at 16.4 points per contest, and is joined by Tyreek Duren (14.4 ppg) and Virginia Tech transfer Tyrone Garland (13.6), all of whom have posted multiple 20+ games this season.  They don’t rebound particularly well (14th in the A-10 in rebounding margin), but have a pair of very capable bigs in 6’8 Jerrell Wright (10.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and 6’11 Steve Zack (7.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg), both sophomores. La Salle is 4-4 in true road games, 0-2 on the road in conference play.

A quick look at VCU: VCU experienced their first loss in more than two months this past Thursday at Richmond, but have been living on the edge since starting A-10 play. When the Rams turn teams over they are nearly unbeatable, but as Richmond proved, teams who can hold on to the ball have a great shot of taking down this tough VCU squad. Sophomore Treveon Graham has been the most consistent threat for the black and gold. Graham’s 123.0 offensive rating is the highest among all A-10 players used at least 24% of their teams possessions, his 16.2 ppg ranks seventh in the A-10 on the season. The sophomore is averaging 19.6 points in seven games this January and has posted double-digit scoring in every game since the start of December. Junior big Juvonte Reddic gotten hot lately as well. Reddic is averaging a double-double of 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds since starting A-10 play, doing so in just over 30 minutes per contest. Where the Rams lack consistency however is in the backcourt. Third leading scorer Troy Daniels (12.3 ppg) has hit a cold streak that rivals Richmond’s current weather conditions. The Roanoke native has hit 11 of his last 41 shots and is 4-of-23 over the last three contests. Daniels has four games with at least seven made threes, including a VCU record 11 made threes, but those games have come against teams with a combined record of 17-61. When Daniels is hot the Rams are nearly impossible to beat. The senior is 8-of-27 in the Rams four losses.

Tale of the Tape…
Scoring Offense: VCU 79, La Salle 71.7
Scoring Defense: VCU 62.5 points allowed, La Salle 65.3
Field Goal%: VCU 45.5%, La Salle 43.9%
Field Goal% Defense: VCU 43.1%, La Salle 45.2%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 34.6%, La Salle 34.5%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: La Salle 32.2%, VCU 33.2%
Rebounding Margin: VCU +2.8, La Salle -2.3
Turnover Margin: VCU +8.45, La Salle +4.06

VCU wins if: They get solid guard play. Two quick stats that will be a major factor today: 1) 42.1%…VCU’s 3-point field goal defensive percentage in A-10 play, which, ranks dead last in the league. VCU guards had a tough time with the UofR trio of Brothers (18 points), Anthony (26 points…21 in the second half alone) and Lindsey (13 points). It gets no easier tonight. 2) 53.6%…opponents field goal percentage inside the arch against La Salle, good for 15th in the league. That should equal a bright green light to Reddic or Graham, but the Rams will need to be more than a two-man show. Overall I’ll be interested to see how VCU guards will handle La Salle’s experienced backcourt. The Rams need to keep their man in front of them but can’t afford to give up the open looks from three we’ve seen over the last few weeks.

La Salle wins if: They win the battle of the backcourts. VCU is forcing 20.8 turnovers per game this season but just 11.25 in their four losses. The Rams can’t press if they can’t score, so the first step for La Salle will be to make someone other than Graham or Reddic beat them. It will then be up to the VCU guards to except that challenge.

Game tips a 8PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Watch: CBS Sports Network
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A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...