January 06, 2015

VCU has rediscovered the style of play that has led to success under Shaka Smart, but the Rams are likely to be tested on the defensive end while facing one of the nation's top-scoring teams.

With both squads looking to open 2-0 in Atlantic 10 play, the 20th-ranked Rams will try for their seventh consecutive victory Wednesday night when they host league newcomer Davidson.

VCU (11-3, 1-0) struggled to find its typical form defensively during a 6-3 start, allowing 72.1 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting - including a 41.6 mark from 3-point range. The club opened the season ranked 15th, but fell out of the Top 25 after letting Old Dominion sink 9 of 17 from beyond the arc in a 73-67 loss Nov. 29.

The Rams, however, have seemed to turn things around since pulling out a 93-87 double-overtime home win over then-No. 23 Northern Iowa on Dec. 13. They've given up 55.8 points per game, a 37.0 field-goal percentage and a 29.2 mark from 3-point range while forcing an average of 19.0 turnovers in their last five.

"We're always going to try and do what we do," said Smart, whose club hasn't trailed since the Northern Iowa game. "There's some teams that we feel if we do apply a level of pressure that we can force a good amount of turnovers."

VCU returned to the Top 25 after forcing 28 turnovers - its most since Dec. 29, 2012 - in Sunday's 75-58 victory at Fordham to open A-10 play. The Rams also limited Fordham to 35.1 percent shooting overall and 4 for 23 from long range.

VCU ranks third in the country with a plus-7.3 turnover margin and fourth with 10.9 steals per game. It hopes to continue that effort against a Davidson team that ranks third nationally in scoring (85.8) and seventh in 3-point shooting (40.8).

Jack Gibbs finished with 32 points and hit five 3-pointers Saturday, while Tyler Kalinoski added 21 with four 3s as the Wildcats (10-2, 1-0) shot 52.9 percent overall en route to an 81-67 home win over Richmond in their A-10 debut.

Gibbs, the league's player of the week, has totaled 53 points while making 9 of 15 from beyond the arc in his last two games. Kalinoski also has scored a combined 41 with seven 3-pointers in his past two.

"Clearly, (Gibbs is) becoming one of the great guards in America," coach Bob McKillop said. "And without a doubt, the three guards that we start, Tyler, Brian (Sullivan) and Jack, could be one of the best guard (trios) in the country."

VCU's Briante Weber, who has been a catalyst on the defensive end, had six steals Sunday to move into a tie for fifth place on the NCAA career list with 349. He also tied Treveon Graham with team highs of 14 points and seven rebounds.

Graham has averaged 17.7 points while shooting 47.2 percent from long range over his last nine games.

In the only meeting between the schools, the Rams lost 77-62 at home to the Wildcats on March 16, 2005.

Davidson has dropped its last 12 games versus ranked opponents, including losses to then-No. 6 North Carolina (90-72) and No. 3 Virginia (83-72) this season.

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