The VCU Rams shocked the Atlantic 10, going from 5th-seeded Thursday participant to the last team standing after defeating Dayton 71-65 in Sunday’s conference title game.
The Rams were virtually written off after losing three of their final four regular season games including a 27-point loss at Davidson.
VCU went on a roaring rampage of revenge this week, defeating all three of the teams that had beaten them during that streak. The Rams started the week by surviving a pesky and much-improved Fordham team on Thursday, then snapped a two-game losing streak to rival Richmond by ending the Spiders’ season Friday. VCU then blew out the Davidson team that had ran them off the court nine days prior, then put the icing on the cake with a fourth win in four days by battling past a tough Dayton Flyers team for the title.
Treveon Graham led the Rams with a 20-point, 13-rebound double-double that helped him win tournament MVP honors. Graham was joined on the tourney first team by Mo Alie-Cox who finished today’s action with 13 points on 6-6 shooting, four rebounds, two assists, one block and a steal.
Fellow sophomore JeQuan Lewis chipped in 15 to go with four assists while freshman Terry Larrier capped off a strong tournament with 10 points and five rebounds, four of his points coming in the clutch as Larrier drilled all four of his high-pressure free throws to outlast Dayton.
Melvin Johnson added nine points and three assists for VCU.
The teams traded leads early in tonight’s contest with VCU ended the first half on a 9-2 run capped off by a JeQuan Lewis buzzer-beating three to give the Rams a seven-point advantage heading into the half.
VCU extended their lead to 10 early in the second, only to see Dayton battle back to tie the game with 11:50 to play. The Rams grabbed the lead back until Dayton was able to tie the game late, first getting a Dyshawn Pierre three to knot it at 55 with 3:13 to play, then twice more including a 59-all ballgame with 1:46 to play.
Graham broke that tie with a layup, then after a VCU timeout, sophomore Doug Brook stripped Dayton guard Schoochie Smith, finishing the fastbreak with an assist to JeQuan Lewis for the fastbreak layup, giving the Rams a four-point buffer with 53 seconds to play.
From there on Larrier and Lewis hit all six of their free throws as well as two more by Graham to give VCU the trophy.
The Rams followed with a massive party at halfcourt in front of a VCU crowd that dominated the Barclays attendance all week.
With the win VCU punches the Atlantic 10 auto-bid to this year’s NCAA tournament, making it five consecutive NCAA tournaments for the Rams.