Virginia Commonwealth topped Dayton 71-65 Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn, New York to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
With one minute remaining, Doug Brooks entered the game with zero points, three turnovers, and four fouls. On the next play, VCU showed meaningful 2-3 zone for the first time since the run to the 2011 Final 4, and Doug Brooks stole the ball and found JeQuan Lewis to give VCU a four point lead.
Dayton’s Coach Miller executed a perfect plan to extend the game and Dayton scored on possession after possession, but VCU, who was 5-of-13 from the charity stripe, hit their final eight free-throws to seal the victory. Freshman Terry Larrier hit the first four. He finished the weekend 18-of-19 on free-throws in his home borough of Brooklyn.
The special play call on the most crucial possession of the game, Larrier’s cool demeanor at the free-throw line, and 5th-seeded VCU winning four games in four days cuts to the core of it: never bet against Coach Smart in March.
Just one week ago, the Rams were limping out of a difficult month of play. Now the Rams are on a five game winning streak. More importantly, they are playing inspired basketball for the first time in months. Their struggles began with the injury of Briante Weber on January 31st. After the injury, VCU’s players told Weber that they were going to win the Atlantic 10 title and that he was going to be the last one to cut down the nets. Mission accomplished.
Coach Smart, a prodigious motivator, clearly had his players motivated in Brooklyn. In the first half they trailed 18-12 before going on a 24-8 run. The burst included four consecutive 3-pointers. They also showed incredible poise. Dayton pieced together 11-0 and 11-1 runs and even tied the game up in the final minutes, but VCU always responded.
Sunday showed that the Rams’ explosive performance against Davidson was not a fluke and that HAVOC! is peaking at the right time heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Treveon Graham finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists. JeQuan Lewis finished with 15 points and 4 assists. Mo Alie-Cox added 13 points (6-6 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Scoochie Smith led Dayton with 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. The Flyers tallied 11 steals and forced 14 VCU turnovers, but finished on 2-of-12 from 3-point range.
VCU was the first team to win four games in four days to earn the title. The Rams topped Fordham 63-57 on Thursday. On Friday the Rams topped Richmond, a team that had beaten VCU twice this season, 70-67.
On Saturday, the Rams completed a 47-point swing in 9 days when they crushed Davidson 93-73 after losing to them by 27 on March 5th. Finally VCU finished their revenge campaign with a win over Dayton, one of three teams to beat VCU in the Siegel Center this season. Coach Smart is now 33-10 in the month of March and 31-7 in “revenge games.”
Top Performer: Treveon Graham
20 points (3-6 2PFG, 3-8 3PFG, 5-7 FTs), 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 steal
After the game, Graham was named the Atlantic 10 Tournament MOP. He finished with 17.25 PPG (15-33 2PFG, 9-22 3PFG), 9.75 RPG, and 2 APG. He was a consistent factor for VCU despite still clearly being hampered by a high-ankle sprain. Graham is one of the greatest to ever don the Black & Gold. VCU will ride the Freight Train as deep into March as they possibly can.
Sophomore Mo Alie-Cox joined Davidson’s Tyler Kalinoski, Dayton’s Jordan Sibert, and Dayton’s Dyshawn Pierre on the All-Tournament Team. He averaged 10.5 PPG, 6.75 RPG, and 1 BPG. More importantly, he filled much of the emotional void left by Briante Weber. While nowhere near as vociferous as Weber, Alie-Cox has a knack for making timely plays and he set the tone for VCU’s toughness through the weekend. He finished with a career-high 18 points in the semifinals and he went 6-of-6 from 13 points in the finals.
- Treveon Graham passed Kendrick Warren to move into second all-time at VCU in scoring with 1,872 points.
- VCU won the same number of games in four days in Brooklyn as they won in the entire month of February.
- The Rams tied the A-10 Tournament Record with 40 made 3-pointers.
- VCU is the first team in Virginia history to make five consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
- During VCU’s five game winning streak, Melvin Johnson is 17-of-37 (.459) from 3-point range.
7th-seeded VCU will play 10th-seeded Ohio State on Thursday in Portland. They are in the West Region with #1 seed Wisconsin and #2 seed Arizona.
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