JeQuan Lewis scored a career-high 34 points with nine three-point field goals as VCU (21-5; 11-2 A-10) held off Saint Joseph’s, 91-81, in Atlantic 10 action at the sold-out Siegel Center.
Chris Clover tied his career-high with 21 points for Saint Joseph’s (10-15; 3-10) while Charlie Brown added 19 on 5-for-9 shooting. James Demery had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds while Brendan Casper scored a career-high 13 points off the bench for SJU, which has lost five in a row.
Justin Tillman had 14 points and 13 rebounds and Samir Doughty had 10 points and 10 assists for the Rams, who have won seven straight.
It marked the first game for Saint Joseph’s without leading scorer Lamarr Kimble, who sustained a fracture in his foot on Feb. 11. Freshman Nick Robinson started at point guard for Saint Joseph’s and had seven points and five assists.
Leading 48-44 at halftime, VCU began the second half with a 7-0 run to open up its biggest lead of the game, 55-44, with 17:39 to play.
SJU cut it to 57-54 on a three-pointer by Brown, but Lewis answered with his eighth three of the game to put the Rams up 60-54. His ninth three of the game pushed the Rams’ lead to 70-62.
Trailing 74-64, the Hawks remained in it, despite going without a field goal for close to five minutes before Clover ended it at 4:50 to pull SJU within, 74-68.
Saint Joseph’s had one more run and came within 82-76 with 1:01 to go, but it became a game of free throws and VCU converted 9-of-10 in the final minute to secure the win.
The first half was nip and tuck with the teams trading leads (13) and ties (7). VCU held its biggest lead of the half, 14-9, at 14:06, but the Hawks fought back and led by as much as five, 23-18, after a pair of free throws by Nick Robinson at 7:21.
VCU’s Lewis hit six of the Rams’ eight three-pointers in the first half, including one that broke a 44-44 tie with 30 seconds remaining, as they took a 48-44 lead at halftime.
The Hawks shot 57.6 percent from the field in the first half, but VCU’s 10-of-19 effort from three-point range was the difference in that half.
Kimble underwent successfully surgery today and will be sidelined for the rest of the year. He is the Hawks’ fourth player to suffer a season-ending injury this year.
“I can’t fault the effort, but it’s the execution. They’ve got older guys and really, the better guys won. Walking to the foul line and shooting 63 percent in the second half on the road is a formula to lose,” said Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli.
“Lewis was a senior in a game that they needed. 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,” said the SJU coach. “We’re now in last place in this league and that’s not what this program is built on. 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.”
Saint Joseph’s visits La Salle on Saturday for an Atlantic 10 and Big 5 matchup.