The term “locked in” is defined by The Free Dictionary as “a state in which one can or feels as though one can perform with exceptional focus, skill, and energy.”
On Tuesday night, that definition simply could have read “Jayden Nunn.”
The VCU Rams capped off their second dominant win in a row, this time dominating on the road at Hagan Arena in Philadelphia against the St. Joseph’s Hawks, winning 88-63 in a game the Rams never trailed in.
VCU (21-7, 12-3 A-10) was led by Nunn, who scored VCU’s first 10 points on the way to hanging a 23-point first half on the Hawks. For a large portion of the half, Nunn alone was outscoring the Hawks while shooting perfect from the field.
Nunn ended with a career-high 31 points on 12-of-13 shooting and 7-for-7 from deep. Nunn’s only blemish – aside from a missed free throw on his only attempt from the stripe – was a miss from the paint in the second half. Nunn corralled his own miss and hit a second-chance layup to keep VCU’s offense rolling.
The Michigan native’s 31-point night was the second time a VCU player has scored 30 or more points this season. Junior guard Ace Baldwin scored 37 in VCU’s road win over Saint Louis earlier this season.
Jalen DeLoach – two games removed from what looked like a severe knee injury he sustained in the Rhode Island game – returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench over the weekend against Fordham. DeLoach provided 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting, adding a team-high seven rebounds, a mark he shared with Jamir Watkins.
In all, 10 Rams scored in the contest, including freshman Christian Fermin in his return to his home state of Pennsylvania. Fermin scored two points late in the contest at the line when head coach Mike Rhoades emptied the bench.
VCU’s night was punctuated by senior walk-on Arnold Henderson VI, who for the second game in the row had the ball in his hands during VCU’s final possession. Rather than dribble it out like he did on Saturday against Fordham, Henderson dished the ball to David Shriver, who knocked down a 3-pointer to push VCU’s lead up to 25. The assist is the second of Henderson’s career, with the other one coming during the 2019-20 season.
Led by Nunn, VCU shed the offensive struggles that have sometimes plagued the team during the season. VCU shot 52.5% from the floor and 57.9% from deep, while missing from the free throw line only three times in 18 attempts.
VCU’s defense remained strong, forcing 15 turnovers and holding the Hawks to 37.5% from the floor. Seven St. Joseph’s players scored, led by Erik Reynolds’ 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Reynolds also tacked on three made 3-pointers, a team high.
The Hawks fell to 13-15 overall and 7-9 in the Atlantic 10 conference. They will next play on Sunday afternoon in Olean, New York against St. Bonaventure.
VCU has three games left in its slate, beginning with a sold-out Friday night contest at the Siegel Center against Richmond. Richmond stormed back on Tuesday night to defeat Saint Louis in a tight contest, pushing the Spiders to 14-14 overall and 7-8 in the A-10.
Friday night’s game will be the first Capital City Classic matchup without Spiders’ head coach Chris Mooney on the sideline since 2005. Mooney announced last week that he will miss the remainder of the season and undergo surgery to remove an aneurysm in his ascending aorta. Assistant coach Peter Thomas began serving as interim head coach with Tuesday night’s win over Saint Louis.
Photo: VCU Athletics