Long Beach St.-VCU Preview

The Associated Press

Shaka Smart's trademark "havoc" defense has been as good as advertised, helping Virginia Commonwealth rank among the nation's best in forcing turnovers.

His concern stems from the Rams' inability to knock down shots while suffering their first loss, which surely will drop them from their No. 10 ranking.

VCU looks to bounce back Friday night against a struggling Long Beach State squad in the consolation bracket of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

The Rams (3-1) are forcing 22.8 turnovers per game after Florida State committed 25 in Thursday's first-round matchup, but they shot 29.3 percent from the field and hit 5 of 23 from 3-point range in an 85-67 defeat.

''I thought, for us, this was a wakeup call and realization that we just can't be who we want to be - we have to make it happen,'' Smart said. ''It was a classic case of allowing our offense to affect our defense. There's going to be nights like that, but the good teams stick to the process.''

VCU entered the contest averaging 82.3 points, but it shot worse than 30 percent for only the third time in its last 281 games. The Seminoles capitalized on their possessions, shooting 53.7 percent.

Treveon Graham scored 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting to lead the Rams.

''We could have played a little more together on offense instead of trying to do it all by themselves all the time,'' Smart said. ''If we get the stops we need to get, it could make for a different game.''

If the Rams can sort out their offensive woes, they shouldn't have much trouble with a Long Beach State team that has committed at least 15 turnovers in each of its last three games.

The 49ers have lost four straight since a season-opening win over Division II Hawaii Pacific on Nov. 9 after falling 85-61 to No. 14 Michigan in the first round Thursday.

Long Beach State, averaging 64.0 points and shooting 39.0 percent on the season, couldn't overcome the Wolverines' offensive attack.

''Just so many weapons offensively," coach Dan Monson said. "We didn't have an answer to slow them down on that end of the floor.''

The 49ers (1-4) will be facing their third ranked team of the young season.

"(Thursday was) our third game (against major-conference opponents) - Kansas State, Arizona and Michigan," Monson said. "We've just got to be able to take scouting reports and be able to disrupt somebody and not get people comfortable right out of the gate so easy."

Long Beach State, the three-time defending regular-season Big West Conference champion, is used to playing a tough schedule.

''We had the No. 1 RPI Jan. 1 the last three or four seasons, just playing tough teams,'' Monson said. ''Every year the last three we've been able to win our league by getting better at this time. So it is truly preseason for us right now.

"We've got to get better (Friday), and if we play even better than that on Sunday, then we'll have an opportunity.''

The 49ers are 0-7 against ranked opponents since a win over No. 14 Xavier on Dec. 22, 2011.

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