ST. LOUIS — VCU had one tough shooting night and that knocked the Rams out of first place in the Atlantic 10.
The Rams were held without a field goal for more than 10 minutes in the first half, and that proved to be their undoing as Saint Louis outscored them 21-1 during that stretch and ultimately took over first place in the conference with a 76-62 win Tuesday night.
Saint Louis (20-5, 9-2) holds a half-game advantage over No. 15 Butler (21-6, 9-3), which beat cellar dweller Duquesne 68-49 Tuesday. The Billikens will visit Butler Friday. SLU defeated the Bulldogs at home 75-58 on Jan. 31.
VCU (21-6, 9-3) was led by Juvonte Reddic with 19 points and 12 rebounds. The double-double was his 10th this season.
Despite the setback, VCU coach Shaka Smart said his team is not finished.
"We're one game out of first place in the loss column," Smart said. "It's not like we're in a terrible position.
"Obviously, we wanted to win tonight. We wanted to be a game up. But this is a league where you have to be able to endure tough nights and you have to be able to bounce back."
Jordair Jett scored all 16 of his points in the second half and Mike McCall, Jr. added 15 to help Saint Louis win its eighth straight
Led by Jett and Cody Ellis, who contributed 10 points, SLU's bench outscored VCU's 34-14. Dwayne Evans also was in double figures for SLU with 14 points.
But it was the Billikens' defense that left the Rams shaking their heads.
"They did a real good job of pushing us out and taking us off our spots we wanted to be,"said VCU's Darius Theus. "The coach told us they were going to bang us a lot and we weren't going to get a lot of calls. Give them credit."
The loss snapped VCU's five-game winning streak and was the worst of the season for the Rams, whose previous biggest loss was nine points to Duke back in November.
"There's just so many good teams, there are so many good teams that on any given night can beat any team in the league," Smart said. "Saint Louis, the way they're playing, is probably playing better than anyone.
The Rams entered the game averaging 78.1 points, tops in the Atlantic 10. But the Rams were no match for the Billikens' league-leading defense (57.8 ppg) in the opening half.
Saint Louis held the Rams without a field goal for more than 10 minutes, and allowed just eight baskets during the first half. That helped the Billikens build a 38-21 halftime lead.
The Billikens led 11-8 when VCU's Rob Brandenberg sank a bucket with 14:34 left in the first half. VCU did not score from the field again until Treveon Graham hit a jumper with 4:08 remaining. Saint Louis outscored 21-1 during that stretch.
VCU found its stroke to start the second half, as the Rams made their first five shots out of the break to cut the lead to 45-34. But Jett answered with a layup and a conventional three-point play with 15:24 remaining to increase the lead to 50-34.
Saint Louis would stretch the lead back out to 26 when Ellis hit a layup with 6:02 remaining that made it 68-42.