Despite the absence of Treveon Graham, VCU survived Duquesne on Saturday to win its tenth straight game.
#17 Virginia Commonwealth University survived Duquesne 70-64 Saturday afternoon despite missing leading scorer and rebounder Treveon Graham.
Duquesne jumped out to a 15-9 lead as VCU struggled to figure out the Dukes’ 2-3 zone defense and the absence of Treveon Graham. Graham sprained his ankle in a heroic victory on Tuesday, but was dressed and supposedly able to play. VCU built a huge lead with a 31-11 run to end the first half, but as that lead evaporated in the second half, it became apparent that Treveon Graham was limited to watching from the bench.
The Dukes caught fire from 3-point range in the second half and cut the lead to 62-60 with a Darius Lewis dunk at the 2:26 mark. Duquesne finished the first half just 1-of-8 from 3-point range before hitting 5-of-7 3-pointers to start the second half.
Clinging to a two point lead, Melvin Johnson missed a shot on the next play, but Mo Alie-Cox stole the ball at mid-court and Melvin Johnson hit a crucial extra long-range 3-pointer to push the lead to five and ultimately seal VCU’s 10th straight victory. Johnson has a knack for hitting big-time, momentum-altering shots regardless of his stat line. He finished with 14 points (1-6 2PFG, 4-10 3PFG), but his tough start clearly didn’t alter his release.
Firing on five cylinders
HAVOC! is most dangerous on offense when every player is a threat to score, especially from 3-point range. At times this season, VCU has been balanced. Other times, it has been one-dimensional. JeQuan Lewis, Doug Brooks, and Jordan Burgess were all invaluable contributors in the absence of Treveon Graham, and Saturday should pay dividends moving forward.
Lewis finished with 16 points and six assists in a statement performance. Brooks scored 10 points in only nine minutes of action but did not play the final 13:39 after tweaking his knee in the first half. Burgess tallied seven points, four rebounds, and three assists. All three guards are highly capable and while all three don’t need to be electric every night, one or two stepping up to complement Treveon Graham and Melvin Johnson will make VCU much more difficult to defend and much more explosive come March.
Top performer: JeQuan Lewis
16 points (3-7 2PFG, 3-8 3PFG), 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 turnover
Aside from his overtime-forcing foul on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, JeQuan Lewis scored 13 points and looked to be a crucial part of the 2014-2015 Rams in last season’s loss to Stephen F. Austin. But a scary head injury to start the season and struggles with consistency have limited the sophomore’s role this season.
The point guard who once scored 50 points in a 32-minute high school game, had only hit double figures twice this season and had just 12 points in Atlantic 10 play. Saturday, he reminded the doubters that he is one of the most gifted offensive players on the team and he excelled as a scorer and a distributor.
No other player on the team can feed the post or drive and kick as well as Lewis, and when he is selective he can score using penetration and his jump shot. At one point Lewis was 3-of-3 from 2-point range and 3-of-6 from 3-point range before he started pressing as well as missing free-throws. Shot selection and waiting for open looks to come his way are the key.
Hopefully Saturday builds his confidence, because Lewis is capable of finishing third on the team in scoring despite only averaging 5.9 PPG thus far.
- JeQuan Lewis has 16 assists and four turnovers in his last three games.
- Saturday was the first game Treveon Graham missed since he began at VCU. He has played in 124 consecutive games.
- JeQuan Lewis now ranks 44th nationally with a steal % of 4.4%. Briante Weber ranks number 1 at 8.8%.
- Mo Alie-Cox had 11 turnovers in the first seven games of the season. He has just three turnovers in the last 11 games.
- Michael Gilmore is fouling 9.4 times per 40 minutes.
VCU wraps up its three-game road trip when the Rams visit St. Louis on Friday at 7:00 PM. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
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