Virginia Commonwealth finished off a sweep of its two-game trip to Philadelphia with a 76-65 win over La Salle on Saturday. But the Explorers made the Rams work plenty hard for it.
La Salle (10-9, 1-6 Atlantic 10) scored the game’s first five points, and held VCU without a basket for the game’s first 2 1/2 minutes. But once the Rams (15-5, 5-2) got going, they scored 21 straight points and rolled to a 33-24 halftime lead.
The Explorers rallied to within 38-34 just over three minutes into the second half, and trailed by just 46-43 with 13:00 left. But VCU reasserted itself, helped in part by an iffy charge call against La Salle that stopped the Explorers’ momentum.
La Salle refused to go away, cutting VCU’s lead to 65-62 with 3:21 remaining, but that was as close as the home team got.
David Beatty led La Salle with 16 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals.
Marcus Santos-Silva, VCU’s top scorer this season, led the Rams again Saturday. He had 16 points, 9 rebounds, a steal and an emphatic block in the final minute that iced the win.
VCU shot 51.7% from the field in the second half: 3-of-5 from three-point range and 12-of-24 from 2-point range.
The Explorers shot just 3-of-10 from the free throw line.
“We have at least five, maybe six teams [in the A-10] that are worthy of NCAA Tournament consideration. As a young team, we just want to see where we are against those teams, and we don’t want to miss opportunities to put our best foot forward and battle, and see how good we can be. I think today, we did that." - La Salle coach Ashley Howard
"As he [Howard] is building this program, he’s doing it the right way ... They are trying to play the way he wants them to play, and you can see that.” - VCU coach Mike Rhoades, a native of Mahanoy City, Pa., in Schuylkill County.
La Salle and St. Joseph’s are what they are, but if you watched both of VCU’s games in town this week, you saw why they’re a legitimately good team -- especially on defense. The Rams have the 23rd-best defensive efficiency in the nation, and rank No. 6 in turnovers forced per 100 possessions (25.8).
The Explorers, meanwhile, have really been struggling to avoid committing turnovers. They entered Saturday’s game averaging 21.7 per 100 possessions, way down at No. 310 nationally, and committed 16 against the Rams.