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No. 14 VCU gets thoroughly outplayed in loss to Old Dominion

VCU v Michigan

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 23: Head coach Shaka Smart of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams reacts as he coaches in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at The Palace of Auburn Hills on March 23, 2013 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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VCU jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Old Dominion on Saturday afternoon in the first minute of the game after a Briante Weber steal led to a Treveon Graham three-pointer. It also marked the last time the No. 14 Rams would hold a lead in an ugly 73-67 road loss to the Monarchs.

Old Dominion limited turnovers in the first half, defended well in the halfcourt and didn’t let “Havoc” get to them by forcing a lot of live ball turnovers. The Monarchs led by double digits for 27 consecutive minutes and held the Rams to 39 percent shooting and 32 percent shooting from three.

While some were critical of my colleague Rob Dauster’s take on VCU earlier this week after a loss to Villanova at the Barclays Center, some of his points rang true again on Saturday.

Without creating consistent live-ball turnovers with its press-all-game defense, VCU’s offense was pretty helpless and only Graham (29 points) seemed to make a consistent impact on the offensive end. If Melvin Johnson isn’t knocking down shots, and on Saturday he was 4-for-14 from the field and 1-for-8 from three-point range, then the Rams really have a tough time generating consistent offense.

Of VCU’s 67 points, 12 came off of 12 Old Dominion turnovers, but the Monarchs only had five turnovers in the first half and used that to their advantage as they jumped out to a lead as large as 18 in the second half. It also helps to have a guard like Aaron Bacote get hot. The junior was 8-for-8 from the field and 4-for-4 from three-point range to pace Old Dominion with 31 points. When someone goes for 31 points on eight field goal attempts, it’s never a good sign for your chances of victory.

While Havoc not working against a Big East contender and top-15 team like Villanova is one thing, it’s another when it comes against a former CAA conference opponent with seemingly inferior talent. It looked like VCU might gain some momentum early in the second half, as they forced four turnovers in a stretch of 2:33, but only one of them was of the live-ball variety and Johnson had the ball slapped out of his hands. VCU didn’t score on the ensuing possession after a TV timeout stopped play.

Another VCU steal with 7:30 left in the second half looked like it could cut the Old Dominion lead to single digits, but Graham was blocked. Momentum just never seemed to go VCU’s way on Saturday.

This is a bad loss for VCU and they’ll have to find more consistency in the halfcourt offense and have more reliable efforts from someone besides Graham if their press isn’t getting them easy live ball turnovers that lead to baskets. If teams like Old Dominion are able to hold onto the ball and control the tempo, the Rams might be in trouble.

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