One minute into VCU’s matchup at St. Bonaventure on Saturday afternoon, Marcus Evans whisked the ball from close to the top of the key to a wide-open Sean Mobley to his left, near the Bonnies’ bench.
Mobley buried a 3-pointer to give the Rams an early lead. And from that point, it was as if they could do no wrong.
They scored inside, moved the ball around with precision, clicked in transition and ensured the result at the Reilly Center in Olean, N.Y., was never in doubt. VCU won 85-55, the team’s fourth victory in a row.
It was the Rams’ largest margin of victory since they beat La Salle by 38 in January 2017.
“Even though [St. Bonaventure] made a couple baskets early, they were tough shots, they were highly contested,” coach Mike Rhoades said in a postgame interview with Ram Radio color commentator Mike Litos. “And when your defense travels, and then you gain some confidence on offense, that’s how you snowball this.”
With Davidson’s loss at Massachusetts earlier in the afternoon, the win moved VCU (17-6, 8-2 Atlantic 10) into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10.
Mobley led VCU with 12 points. Marcus Santos-Silva had 11 points and six rebounds. Evans had 10 points and a career-high-tying six steals.
Speaking after the game with Ram Radio play-by-play commentator Robby Robinson, freshman guard KeShawn Curry said Rhoades emphasized setting the tone during the the first four minutes.
Santos-Silva established himself inside early. In the first 3½ minutes, the 6-7, 250-pound sophomore forward had 4 points and four rebounds. His first field goal, a layup at the 17:25 mark, began what became a 15-0 run for the Rams that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
Santos-Silva had 6 total points in the 15-0 run. Malik Crowfield capped it with a 3-pointer, to push VCU’s lead to 20-4 seven minutes in. Besides that 3 and Mobley’s to start the game, the Rams had 8 of their first points in the paint at that point, and 6 at the foul line.
VCU continued to win the battle inside as the game progressed. The team outscored St. Bonaventure 38-24 in the paint and outrebounded the Bonnies 50-35.
Meanwhile, the Rams’ defensive pressure kept St. Bonaventure (9-14, 5-5) at bay. Senior Courtney Stockard led with 15 points, but the Bonnies finished with a 26.6 overall shooting percentage, including 1 of 18 (5.6 percent) from 3-point range — their lowest marks of the season in both categories.
The Bonnies also struggled with fouls. Stockard and 6-10 freshman forward/center Osun Osunniyi, both starters, finished the first half with three fouls apiece. They were called for their fourth fouls early in the second half. Stockard fouled out with 12:47 to play, and Osunniyi with 9:48 left.
Twelve of the 14 VCU players who got time on Saturday scored. VCU shot 50.8 percent overall. The team was 6 of 22 on 3-pointers.
The Rams face crosstown rival Richmond next on Wednesday at the Siegel Center.
“We’ve just continued to practice hard, continued to work better, continued to keep going,” Curry said. “So, our confidence level is definitely going up, where we’re just trying to focus on keep getting better.”