Score: VCU 80, La Salle 67
Location: Richmond, Va. (Stuart C. Siegel Center)
Records: VCU 10-4 (1-0 Atlantic 10), La Salle 6-8 (0-1 Atlantic 10)
The short story: Sophomore forward Jalen DeLoach secured his first career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds as the Rams outscored the Explorers 42-31 in the second half to pull away and start Atlantic 10 Conference play on a winning note.
- DeLoach’s 14 points came on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor. His 13 rebounds topped his previous career-high of 11 last season against Rhode Island.
- VCU junior guard Ace Baldwin Jr. led all Rams in points (19), assists (6), and steals (4). Fifteen of his points came on a career-high five 3-pointers
- Junior guard Zeb Jackson had a banner day to ring out 2022 for the Black and Gold, scoring 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, just two points removed from his career high of 16 set earlier this year against Pittsburgh
- Graduate student Brandon Johns Jr. was the final Ram in double figures, putting up 10 points on 4-of-8 from the field. Johns Jr. also contributed six rebounds, second-most on the team
- La Salle’s Josh Nickelberry led all scorers with 21 points, 13 of which came in the first half. Jhamir Brickus and Khali Brantley also recorded double figures with 16 and 14 points, respectively
- After a Brantley pull-up jumper brought La Salle within two with 9:22 left, the Black and Gold took over, outscoring the Explorers 27-18 the rest of the way. Baldwin commenced the run with a 3-pointer and capped it with a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left
- In the first half, the Explorers navigated their way to a 7-0 lead in the opening 2:57 of the game, courtesy of two Nickelberry field goals and layup by Brantley. La Salle would lead for most of the opening 20 minutes before the Black the Gold took their first lead at 25 seconds before halftime with a Johns Jr. dunk. Following a layup by La Salle’s Fousseyni Drame, Jackson nailed a pull-up 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer and give the Rams a 38-36 lead at the break.
- The two teams went back and forth for the first ten minutes of second half, with La Salle staying within arm’s length and not allowing VCU a lead bigger than seven points prior to the Rams’ final flurry to put the game out of reach
- The Rams’ eight 3-pointers ties their highest mark of the season, which also happened in the season opener against Manhattan
- The bench came up big for the Black and Gold, outscoring La Salle’s bench players 27-8
- VCU shot .515 (17-of-33) from the field in the second half
- With the victory, the Rams continue their dominance of La Salle, winning their eighth straight against the Explorers. The Black and Gold own an all-time record of 12-2 against La Salle, including a 9-2 mark since joining the Atlantic 10
- VCU has now won their past 13 conference openers, a streak that dates back to the 2009-10 season
The Rams will hit the road on Wednesday, Jan. 4 when they match up against the Duquesne Dukes (11-4, 1-1 Atlantic 10). It will be the Black and Gold’s first road game since Dec. 3. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m., and the game will be streamed live on ESPN+.
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