Juvonte Reddic is playing his best basketball as Virginia Commonwealth heads into the most difficult part of its schedule.
Reddic, who has been prone to getting down on himself when things don’t go well, had 14 points and 11 rebounds Thursday night and VCU overcame a lackluster effort and won its 17th consecutive home game, defeating Rhode Island 68-52. It was Reddic’s fourth consecutive double-double.
“They’re definitely throwing it in more,” Reddic said of VCU’s guards. “Coach Smart, he’s made a big emphasis on the guards getting the ball inside.”
The Rams have typically run a guard-oriented offense, but Smart said the increased attention to playing inside-out has had a purpose.
“It’s a big-boy game,” Smart said. “You have to move on when things don’t go your way, but yeah, he’s definitely more engaged. Most players are when they are touching the ball.”
Jordan Burgess added 11 points for VCU, and said the inside-out approach helps all the Rams scorers, causing teams to double-team Reddic and freeing the perimeter players up for more open shots, or lanes in which to drive to the basket.
“You’ve got to feed your beast sometimes,” Burgess said, “Most of the time, especially if they’re doing what Ju is doing.”
Treveon Graham added 10 points for VCU (19-4, 7-1 Atlantic 10), which led 41-21 at halftime and never let the visiting Rams get closer than 12 again. The game remained lopsided even with VCU going 9 1/2 minutes without a field goal after its first basket of the second half.
The victory was the sixth in a row and 11th in 12 games for VCU, but the road ahead is more daunting. VCU plays six of its last eight regular season games on the road, starting Saturday at Saint Joseph’s. The slate includes a pair of games with No. 13 Saint Louis, which beat VCU twice last season.
Gilvydas Biruta had nine points and 14 rebounds to lead Rhode Island (11-12, 2-6). The visiting Rams, playing without a true point guard because one is hurt and the other left the program in December, committed 20 turnovers against VCU’s pressing defense, leading to 22 points for the host Rams.
“We tried to play two scholarship guys and like five walk-ons to prepare for the multitude of things they do, but you can’t simulate it,” URI coach Dan Hurley said. “I thought five-on-five in the half court, we guarded them well. The difference is the free points they get off turnovers and second-chance points.”
Jarelle Reischel scored 11 points and Rhode Island scoring leader Xavier Munford had 10, but shot just 4 of 15 from the field.
VCU lead 10-9 when Reddic scored inside, the start of a 17-2 run over the next eight minutes. Reddic scored eight in the run, which ended with the host Rams ahead 27-11.
After E.C. Matthews’ 3-pointer for Rhode Island four minutes into the game, they didn’t get another field goal for four minutes, and then went another eight minutes before Biruta’s layup with 4:03 left.
In the second half, Briante Weber’s steal and windmill dunk gave VCU a 43-21 lead with 18:56 to go. When they got their next field goal, by Burgess with 9:19 to go, their lead had only been trimmed to 15 at 49-34.