No. 25 VCU bids to step up defense vs. No. Texas

No. 25 Virginia Commonwealth started its season with a bit of a tough win over Saint Francis (Pa.) on Tuesday, and the Rams will try for a second victory when hosting North Texas on Friday night in Richmond, Va.

VCU beat a stubborn Red Flash team by the score of 72-58 in the season opener for both. The teams were even in the second half, and that stopped the Rams from breaking the game open.

Still, VCU never led by less than 10 points in the second half.

Marcus Santos-Silva led the Rams with a double-double of 21 points and 18 rebounds. He made eight of 11 shots from the floor and pitched in with three assists and three steals.

VCU also got help from De'Riante Jenkins (16 points) and Marcus Evans (12 points). The two senior guards helped Santos-Silva give the Rams good work on opening night, and the trio combined for 49 of the team's points.

Jenkins talked about how well VCU played defense in the first half as the Rams took a 36-22 lead at the break. But Saint Francis performed better on offense in the second half, and VCU wants to turn in a better defensive effort against North Texas on Friday.

"First half, felt like we defended them well," Jenkins told the Commonwealth Times. "Second half, we felt like we got our foot off the gas. We got to stay focused, watch film and get better."

VCU also wants to improve in the area of turnovers against North Texas. The Rams gave the ball up 18 times, which might have caused even more problems if they hadn't forced 19 turnovers from the Red Flash.

The Rams also will keep hoping to have their sellout streak going. They've now sold out 135 straight games, including their season opener earlier this week.

North Texas comes to town for the second game of its season on Friday night. The Mean Green is 1-0 after rolling to a 79-40 victory over Oklahoma Christian in the season opener this past Tuesday.

North Texas now has won seven straight season-opening games. In this contest, Thomas Bell led the way with 16 points as the Mean Green cruised to the easy victory.

"It was good getting the win on the first day," Bell said on the team's website. "We have to do some things better, like taking care of the ball, but it always feels good to get a win."

Bell transferred in from Kaskaskia College (Ill.) and began the game on the bench but came in quickly. He nailed his first pair of threes and reached at least 10 points before any other player.

The Mean Green were solid on defense throughout the contest. North Texas blanked Oklahoma Christian for almost 11 minutes at one point during the middle part of the game. During that strong defensive effort, North Texas increased its lead from seven to 30 points.

Zachary Simmons also helped with 14 points and six rebounds, letting the Mean Green control play in the lane. That also was a big reason why North Texas limited OCU to 28.3 percent shooting from the field.

In addition, it forced 22 turnovers that broke up the Oklahoma Christian offense on several occasions, and the Mean Green will face a big test when facing VCU.

--Field Level Media