RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Marcus Santos-Silva had 21 points and 18 rebounds and No. 25 VCU used a big early run to take command in a 72-58 victory over St. Francis in the season opener for both teams Tuesday night.
The Rams used an early 23-5 spree to open a 25-9 lead with just over eight minutes to play in the opening half. Six players scored in the run, while the Red Flash missed 12 of their 14 shots and turned the ball over six times against VCU’s pressing, trapping defense.
The Red Flash, regular season co-champions in the Northeast Conference last season, trailed by as many as 21 in the second half, but rallied to within 55-45 with 7:23 to play. But Marcus Evans scored the Rams’ next six points in an 8-2 run that pushed the lead back up to 16.
De’Riante Jenkins added 16 points and Evans scored 12 for the Rams.
Isaiah Blackmon scored 15 and Keith Braxton had 11 for the Red Flash. They finished 21 of 65 from the field, just 24.2%, with 19 turnovers.
St. Francis: The Red Flash rely heavily on the tandem of Braxton, the reigning NEC player of the year, and Blackmon, but both struggled in the opener. They were both 2 for 9 from the field in the opening half as VCU opened its big lead. Neither ever found his stroke with Braxton finishing 4 for 15 and Blackmon 5 for 14.
VCU: The Rams emphasized defense last season and were among the national leaders in several categories. They appear to have picked up right where they left off. They forced eight first-half turnovers and limited the Red Flash to 23.5% shooting (8 for 33) and just one 3-pointer in 10 attempts in a dominant first half.
St. Francis will again be in Richmond to face the Richmond Spiders on Friday night.
VCU remains at home and will play North Texas on Friday night.