November 28, 2014

Virginia Commonwealth appears to have rediscovered its trademark defensive intensity after two uncharacteristic efforts.

The No. 14 Rams look to keep forcing turnovers as they try for their fifth straight win over former Colonial Athletic Association rival Old Dominion on Saturday in their first true road test.

Two games after allowing Toledo to shoot 50.0 percent in an 87-78 victory, VCU again surrendered a 50.0 percentage while forcing only nine turnovers in Monday's 77-53 loss to No. 12 Villanova in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, New York.

The Rams (4-1), who led the NCAA in turnovers forced in each of the past three seasons, failed to reach 10 in that category for the first time since an 81-70 home win over Richmond on Feb. 1.

"I'm sort of glad we got slapped in the mouth, because you could feel the tension in the locker room," guard Melvin Johnson said. "Everyone was humbled by it. We needed to get better as a unit."

VCU returned to the "havoc" style that has keyed its success under coach Shaka Smart on Wednesday. The Rams improved to 125-30 during his tenure when forcing at least 13 turnovers in a 77-63 victory over Oregon in the tournament consolation game.

They led by as many as 14 and never trailed Wednesday, limiting the Ducks to a season-low 37.5 percent shooting - including 9 of 27 from 3-point range - while scoring 26 off 20 turnovers.

''I think from now on, coach is going to put even more emphasis on us getting stops,'' Johnson said. "'You think of us, you think of a defensive team, but we haven't been living up to it.''

VCU will now travel about 90 miles down Interstate 64 to face Old Dominion (4-1). The Monarchs, 2-0 at home, have shot 36.5 from the field and gone 6 of 31 from 3-point range in their last two games, but they're averaging just 10.8 turnovers.

Old Dominion bounced back from Sunday's 64-45 loss to Illinois State with a 58-46 victory over Gardner-Webb on Monday in the third-place game of the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas.

The Rams will certainly have to keep a close watch on guard Trey Freeman, who scored a team-high 22 points and is averaging a career-high 19.8. The junior transfer from Campbell scored 21.0 per contest in three games to earn all-tournament honors.

The Monarchs have been tough on the defensive end, limiting opponents to 38.5 percent from the field after Gardner-Webb shot 29.1 and made 6 of 24 from beyond the arc.

VCU's Treveon Graham has totaled 36 points in the last two meetings with ODU.

The Monarchs have shot 38.4 percent while committing 19.5 turnovers per game during their four-game losing streak in the series, most recently falling 69-48 at VCU on Dec. 8.

ODU has also dropped its last five against ranked opponents, last facing a Top 25 team Dec. 30, 2011, a 75-68 loss to No. 8 Missouri.

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