AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — VCU’s Mike Rhoades said people used to call him an offensive coach. Then he laughed and added, “But oh, man.”
Indeed, VCU is winning this season primarily with defense. The Rams did that on Wednesday night, forcing turnovers and missed shots while handing Texas its second straight loss at home against a mid-major opponent, 54-53.
Marcus Evans scored 16 points and De’Riante Jenkins added 12 for VCU (7-2). Sophomore Marcus Santos-Silva had 10 points, and career highs with 16 rebounds and five steals for the Rams.
Texas (5-3) has lost three straight, including a three-point defeat by Radford last week.
VCU was more than effective on defense. The Rams, using full-court pressure, turned 18 Texas turnovers into 17 points. But they also converted 17 offensive rebounds into 19 points, enabling them to win while converting only 28 percent of their shots.
“It was a rock fight,” Rhoades said. “We made a lot of toughness plays. We played with really good energy and toughness.”
The Longhorns had two shots to win the game in the final 40 seconds, but Courtney Ramey and Matt Coleman missed open 3-pointers, the latter as time ran out.
Jericho Sims led Texas with 14 points. Nobody else reached double figures.
Sims made a shot in the lane to leave Texas trailing by one point with 4:12 remaining. The Longhorns then had four turnovers and a missed a shot on their next five possessions, while VCU made two free throws — by Issac Vann — during that stretch for a three-point lead.
A steal by Longhorn Jaxson Hayes led to a fastbreak basket by Kerwin Roach with 1:29 left, and VCU again led by one.
The Longhorns’ three defeats came after a 92-89 victory over then-No. 7 North Carolina on Thanksgiving.
“I told the guys in the locker room that less than two weeks ago, we were No. 17 in the country with the same guys,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “But the last 2½ games, we haven’t played with the same confidence. We haven’t played with the same swagger.”
VCU: During his first three seasons at Texas, Smart was reluctant to use the full-court defense, known as havoc, that he popularized at VCU. Smart believes it hurts efforts to recruit high-level high school players, although he has employed it more this season. Rhoades, a former assistant to Smart, has no such reluctance. The Rams use it a lot, and it helped them take a one-point lead at halftime despite shooting only 25.8 percent. VCU induced nine turnovers, turning them into nine points, including two that gave the Rams the lead just before halftime. The Rams shot a little better in the second half; 30.8 percent.
Texas: Roach, a senior, was briefly in the national spotlight when he scored a career-best 32 points — nearly double his average — against North Carolina. Roach converted all three of his 3-point attempts. But in three games since that one, Roach has hit just 7 of 37. He was 1 of 11 against VCU while guarded primarily by Vann. Roach said his failure to make baskets is not for lack of work.
“Every night, I’m over here from 9:30 until 12, just shooting the ball,” Roach said.
Texas hit 4-of-17 3-pointers shots (23.5 percent), which is right in line with what VCU opponents have shot this season. Before Wednesday, the Rams limited teams to 23.9 percent, ranking fourth nationally in 3-point defense.
The game Wednesday completed a home-and-home series that was mandated by Smart’s contract when he left VCU for Texas after coaching there for six seasons, from 2009-15. Texas won the game last season in Richmond 71-67.
Rhoades was an assistant and associate head coach under Smart from 2009-14 before becoming the head coach at Rice, where he stayed for three seasons.
“Playing against Shaka stinks,” Rhoades said. “He’s my guy.”
VCU forward Sean Mobley was back in the lineup, as a reserve, after missing two straight games with a bone bruise in his left knee. Mobley scored seven points in 14 minutes.
VCU is at No. 4 Virginia on Sunday. Virginia defeated the Rams 76-67 last season at VCU.
Texas is at home against Purdue, which missed the AP top 25 rankings by one point this week, on Sunday in the second of six straight home games for the Longhorns. Texas and Purdue have met three times but not since 2003. The Longhorns won two of those games, including a 73-72 contest in the second round of the 1990 NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis.