VCU's Doug Brooks (5) and Duquesne's Eric James go after a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at VCU in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. (Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
AP Photo
January 21, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) First-year VCU coach Will Wade has the Rams off to a better start in the Atlantic 10 than was expected before the season began, not that he is letting their nine-game winning streak cloud his reality.

The Rams (14-5, 6-0 Atlantic 10), picked to finish fifth in the preseason, are alone atop the conference standings. But after they extended their winning streak with a 93-71 victory against Duquesne on Wednesday night, they were greeted in the locker room by a very animated, unhappy coach.

''I didn't temper it one bit in there,'' Wade said of his displeasure. ''I got after them. I got after them like we just lost.''

The Rams are not as press-happy as they were under Shaka Smart, but still focus on making opponents turn the ball over. Five times this season their opponent has finished with more turnovers than field goals, and VCU ranks among the national leaders in both turnovers forced (17.58 per game) and turnover margin (plus 5.5).

But against Duquesne, which got in foul trouble within the first few minutes of the game, the Rams' usual tenacity was missing. The Dukes stayed in the game by taking the ball out of a VCU player's hands several times, outhustling them to many loose balls and grabbing half their rebounds at the offensive end.

''We're not into pumping sunshine now,'' Wade said, becoming more animated as he spoke. ''You've got to live in reality or it's going to catch you. You want to win the league or not? You want to keep winning or not? You can't get complacent. You've got to keep the pedal to the metal. Not gonna get it done. Not gonna get it done,'' he repeated, enunciating each of the words for emphasis. ''I'm probably one of the few people that thinks that, but guess what? My opinion matters.''

The Rams had five players score in double figures against the Dukes, but JeQuan Lewis likely was repeating something Wade had said in the locker room when he said being good in one discipline is simply not enough.

The Rams shot 52.5 percent (32-61) and 58.8 percent (10-17) on 3-pointers against a team that was allowing opponents to make just 40.6 percent overall.

''When we're playing like that, we're going to be hard to beat,'' Lewis said. ''But obviously we've gotta do a better part on defense because we gave away way too many points.''

Added Wade: ''We're not going to settle for mediocrity. Hopefully they got that message.''

After a 69-63 home loss to then-No. 23 Cincinnati a month ago, Wade said, his positive spin on the loss was borne of things he saw on the court that suggested to him the Rams were finally understanding what he wants.

''I knew then ... we were on the right track,'' he said. ''I know now we aren't on the right track. We're off the tracks. I've got to get this train back on the right track or nine in a row will be first loss on Saturday.''

That's when the Rams are expected to host 12-5 Saint Bonaventure.


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