Johnson scores 20, Graham 19 as No. 20 VCU surges early and beats Saint Joseph's 89-74



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RICHMOND, Virginia — When Phil Martelli and Saint Joseph's walked into the Siegel Center two hours before game time Saturday, one of the first things the veteran coach noticed was VCU guard Melvin Johnson in a full sweat taking shot after shot after shot.

Two hours later, the Hawks got to see that work pay off as Johnson put on a clinic from 3-point territory.

Johnson broke out of a recent slump by hitting 6 of 7 from behind the arc and scoring 20 points as No. 20 VCU beat the Hawks 89-74. The Rams (13-3, 3-0 Atlantic 10) never trailed and extended their winning streak to eight.

"It's always good to make your first shot," said Johnson, who had made just 14 and 39 over his last four games.

Martelli's team trailed by as many as 27 in the second half and lost its fourth in a row. Asked what an opposing coach or team can do to slow down Johnson once he gets going, he pulled something from his pocket.

"I carry with me this in the hopes that we can stop them," Martelli said. "This is a rosary ring. Prayer is the only way that I know because his release is just so quick."

Treveon Graham added 19 points as the Rams made Shaka Smart just the seventh coach in Division I history to win 150 games in his first six seasons. Smart is 150-49, but said the milestone meant less than seeing Johnson get going again.

"I'm really happy that he was able to knock some in because he's been kind of in a little bit of a slump," Smart said.

"When you are having a rough time as a shooter, which he has over the last several games, the best way to work yourself out of that is to get reps, see it go in and feel it. It paid off today," he said.

Graham hit 4 of 6 3-point tries, and the Rams were 12 for 23 as a team (52.2 percent).

DeAndre Bembry scored 16 and Aaron Brown 14 for Saint Joseph's, now 0-3 in A-10 play for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

The Hawks used an 11-5 run in the first half to get to 22-21, prompting Smart to call a timeout. When Doug Brooks made a 3-pointer on VCU's next possession, it ignited a half-ending 24-9 run that featured scoring from seven Rams.

Graham and Johnson capped the VCU burst with 3-pointers, Johnson's coming as time expired after a steal and feed by JeQuan Lewis. When the Rams scored 11 of the first 14 points of the second half to go ahead 57-33, it was Johnson again capping the burst from long distance, and the Hawks never challenged again as Smart substituted liberally.

Isaiah Milkes added 12 points and James Demery 11 for the Hawks.

Briante Weber added 11 points, seven assists and five of VCU's 12 steals.

TIP Ins:

Saint Joseph's: In previous games against ranked teams this season, the Hawks lost 94-42 to No. 6 Gonzaga and 74-46 to No. 8 Villanova.

VCU: The other six coaches with 150 wins in their first six seasons: Brad Stevens (Butler), Jamie Dix (Pitt), Everett Case (NC State), Mark Few (Gonzaga), Dave Rose (BYU) and Roy Williams (Kansas). ... Treveon Graham became the eight VCU player to reach 1,600 points. He has 1,613.

WEBER'S STEALS:

Briante Weber's five steals left him 27 shy of tying John Linehan of Providence's NCAA career record of 385. Linehan did it from 1998-2002.

UP NEXT:

Saint Joseph's: Hosts Fordham on Wednesday night.

VCU: Plays at Rhode Island on Tuesday night.


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