RICHMOND, Va. -- JeQuan Lewis scored a career-high 34 points with nine 3-pointers, Justin Tillman added 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double, and VCU beat Saint Joseph's 91-81 on Tuesday night to win its seventh straight.
“Lewis was a senior in a game that they needed,” St. Joe's head coach Phil Martelli said. “That wasn’t a walk in the park, and there were a lot of people who assumed how could we hang around. But they needed 91 to beat us and he was a big reason they got it.”
The Rams led by 11 points early in the second half, but the Hawks closed to 57-54 on Charlie Brown's 3-pointer. Later, VCU's lead was cut to 82-76 with 1:01 left but Saint Joseph's got no closer as the game became a free-throw shooting contest.
It's the fifth straight defeat for the Hawks, who lost leading scorer Lamarr Kimble to a season-ending fracture in his left foot in Saturday's 87-76 loss to Massachusetts. Saint Joseph was also without Shavar Newkirk, who suffered a torn ACL on December 30 after leading SJU with a career-best 20.3 scoring average.
“We’re now in last place in this league and that’s not what this program is built on,” Martelli said. “At the end of the day, people won’t look at the score and say, 'That’s a shame, St. Joe’s is without four players.' We’re 10-15 and it’s all of our records. We did the same thing last week at Dayton and left some plays mentally out there.
“We’ve got to get better. We’ve got five games left and we’re not canceling the season. No one’s feeling sorry for us, nor do we expect them to.”
Lewis' 3-pointer put VCU up for good 47-44 late in the first half and the Rams led 48-44 at halftime.
Doug Brooks scored 12 and Samir Doughty 10 for the Rams (21-5, 11-2 Atlantic 10), who have won 10 straight at home.
Clover scored 21 for Saint Joseph's (10-15, 3-10), who are on their longest losing streak since a nine-game skid in January 2011.
“I can’t fault the effort, but it’s the execution. They’ve got older guys and, really, the better guys won,” Martelli said.