Unbeaten No. 21 VCU to host winless Alabama State

NCAA Basketball
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No. 21 Virginia Commonwealth will continue its season-opening home stretch Monday night against Alabama State, which won’t play its first home game until early January.

The Rams, 5-0 for the first time since 1993-94 thanks to five non-conference home victories, will host the Hornets in an on-campus game of the Emerald Coast Classic.

VCU is coming off a 78-48 rout of Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday night, when redshirt senior Marcus Evans scored all 16 points of his points in the first half as the Rams built a 27-point halftime cushion.

The Rams scored the final 17 points of the first half and Florida Gulf Coast never got within 21 in the second half.

VCU dominated the first 20 minutes by forcing 16 turnovers and grabbing 14 offensive rebounds while winning the first-half board battle, 27-17.

“Right from the start, I just thought we had some good vibes,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades said. “I thought our older guys led the way. We were flying around on defense getting deflections, getting turnovers.”

VCU’s pressure defense forced 27 FGCU turnovers overall that led to 37 points. The Rams committed only eight turnovers.

“Whether it’s dead tired on your knees, or mentally tired making mistakes, that’s what we do as the game goes on — we try to wear our opponent down.” Evans said.

Evans, who is averaging 13.2 points per game, leads a veteran nucleus that includes junior Marcus Santos-Silva (12 points, 10.8 rebounds per game), senior De’Riante Jenkins (10 points) and redshirt senior Issac Vann (8.4 points). They all average 23-25 minutes per game.

VCU is scoring 77.2 points per game (while allowing 61.8) and is shooting 34.1 percent from long distance (42-123).

The Rams’ high-octane defense certainly won’t be a welcomed sight for Alabama State, which is coming off a 76-41 loss to then-No. 20 Tennessee.

The Hornets shot just 28.0 percent (14 of 50) overall, 20.0 percent (4 of 20) from beyond the arc and committed 19 turnovers against the Volunteers.

“We’ve got to continue to improve offensively,” coach Lewis Jackson said. “When you’re playing a team as long as Tennessee, from point guard down to the five man, it’s difficult for our guys to get shots off.”

Alabama State (0-4), which is beginning the season with 15 straight games (11 road, four neutral) away from home, will not play a home game until they host Southwestern Athletic Conference rival Mississippi Valley State on Jan. 11.

The Hornets are averaging 52.8 points per game while surrendering 78.5. VCU will be their third nationally ranked opponent, as they’ve also lost to then-No. 8 Gonzaga.

Senior guard Tobi Ewuosho leads Alabama State with 14.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. He’s the only Hornets player averaging double figures in scoring.

–Field Level Media

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