Loss at Dayton highlights key Ram weakness [INSIDER]

After clawing back from down double-digits in front of 13,455 at UD Arena, the Rams simply could not come up with enough big plays late and watched Dayton claim an outright Atlantic 10 regular season title with last night’s 79-72 Flyers win.

Leading scorer JeQuan Lewis hit 42.9% of his non-conference threes but is connecting on just 34.8% in A-10 play after going 1-14 in VCU’s current two-game losing streak.

It was a classic combo of what has ailed VCU this season: slow starts and poor three-point shooting.

The Rams trailed by seven points at the half but were down by as many as 11 in the first, then saw that seven-point deficit extended to 14 over the first eight minutes of the second. Both times the Rams clawed back, but both holes had apparently been dug too deep too overcome with an unbalanced offensive attack.

The Rams once again pounded the paint, getting a combined 41 points and 14 rebounds out of starting bigs Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tillman, finishing 52% of VCU’s two-point shots, but simply could not get anything going from deep, a concerning trend that will hopefully find a way to correct itself heading into both A-10 and hopefully NCAA tournament play.

2-15 13.3% v Dayton
1-15 6.7% v Rhode Island
3-17 17.6% v Saint Louis
6-47 12.8% total 

The Rams currently rank 13th in conference play in three-point shooting at 31.9%, down from 36% last season and one of VCU’s two worst conference three-point shooting performances the past two decades, joining VCU’s 2015 group below the 32% line in conference play.

Just three current Rams are shooting over 35% from three (Lewis, Crowfield, Jenkins), two of which are freshmen with one coming off a broken foot that has shelved him for the majority of the conference season. Of that group, only Lewis averages over 13 minutes per contest.

Simply hitting their 33.6% season average (236th nationally) would have been enough for a win last night and that stat highlights both VCU’s main weakness and perhaps suggests just how high of a ceiling this VCU team might have.

Despite hitting just three threes the past two games, VCU had a chance to knock off two of the A-10’s best in front of hostile sold out road environments. If VCU simply manages to regress to the mean from beyond the arc, or even better, get hot, they arguably become the favorite to win this year’s Atlantic 10 conference tournament.

VCU has shot over 35% in half of their 30 games this season and have hit over 40% of their threes in five of those contests (LSU, Princeton, Howard, GW, Davidson).

The Rams can got from distance, but counting on that may prove to be a fool’s errand.

With one regular season game remaining followed by a conference tournament that will seed VCU no lower than third, the Rams would love a hot streak right now or at least a regression to the mean.

VCU’s 2015 group that struggled to hit threes in A-10 play managed to get hot at the right time, hitting 41.2% of their 97 threes in four A-10 tournament games en route to VCU’s only A-10 tourney championship despite not being able to throw a beach ball into the ocean throughout A-10 regular season play heading into Brooklyn that year. That Rams group wasn’t nearly as efficient inside as this VCU team, finishing sub-200 in two-point percentage as well, meaning this edition of the black and gold is that much closer to becoming an elite A-10 offense.

Are the Rams likely to get hot from deep? It’s hard to place your chips on them doing so. But the good news is in terms of three-point shooting, you can’t do much worse than what we’ve seen these past three contests.

Only one way to go and that’s up!




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 ...