RICHMOND, Va. (Dec. 22, 2014) – Trailing by just six points early in the second half, the ETSU men’s basketball team ultimately fell victim to VCU’s heralded defensive pressure in the final 20 minutes of regulation, as the Rams raced away to an 84-60 non-conference victory Monday evening inside the Siegel Center.
After committing a manageable eight turnovers in the first half, the Buccaneers became careless with the basketball in the second half, committing 14 miscues after the break and allowing the Rams to manufacture multiple offensive runs. With the loss, ETSU drops to 6-3 on the season, while the Atlantic 10 Conference’s Rams improve to 9-3.
“We knew turnovers would be a key to the game and we had 22. That’s way too many,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team was held to a season low 60 points. “We felt pretty good at halftime and then we managed to get it to six in the second half, but we just didn’t handle their pressure enough after that. VCU is a good team and they don’t lose often in this building, so when they start to make a run it’s like an avalanche and it’s hard to stop.”
For the game, VCU forced a total of 22 turnovers, grabbed 18 steals, and dished out 23 assists. Guard Melvin Johnson led the way for the Rams with 15 points, while teammates Treveon Graham and Michael Gilmore added 13 and 10, respectively. Meanwhile, ETSU got a game-high 18 points from senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.), while junior forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) had 11 and senior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) netted 10.
Early in the first half, VCU’s “Havoc” defense gave the Bucs trouble, as ETSU committed five turnovers in the first 11 minutes. Those miscues allowed the Rams to take twice as many shots as the Bucs and build a lead of 22-13. From there, the VCU lead grew to as many as 11 before Riley scored seven straight points to power a 7-2 run and help the Bucs pull to within six at 32-26 with 29 seconds left in the half.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, Wilson fouled Johnson on a 3-point attempt with 2.5 seconds left, and Johnson proceeded to hit all three foul shots to make it 35-26 at the intermission. ETSU ended the half with just eight turnovers, which was quite an improvement after the early troubles.
In the second half, the Bucs opened with a 3-pointer by Rembert that made it a six-point game at 35-29, but after handling the VCU defensive pressure in the first half the Bucs crumbled after the break. Committing nine turnovers over a nine-minute stretch, ETSU looked on as VCU manufactured a lightning quick 12-0 run to open up an 18-point advantage at 47-29. That offensive surge continued until VCU led by as many as 28 late in the game.
The Bucs managed to cut the lead to 20 with four minutes left, but another 8-0 VCU run led to the final margin.
For the game, ETSU out-rebounded the Rams 34-30 and shot 37.5 percent from 3-point range compared to the Rams’ 35.7 percent clip. However, the Rams held significant advantages in points in the paint (42-18), points off turnovers (23-12), and bench points (35-27).
Individually, ETSU sophomore Isaac Banks (New Orleans, La.) had another strong outing, grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds, scoring four points and dishing out three assists in 31 minutes of play.
The Bucs will now head home to spend time with family and enjoy a short break for Christmas before returning to Johnson City in preparation for a trip to Knoxville to face Tennessee on Dec. 31. Tip is set for 1 p.m. inside Thompson-Boling Arena on New Year’s Eve.
For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2014-15 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.