A defensive back-and-forth battle early turned into a relative easy Saint Mary’s victory, as a cold VCU second half doomed the Rams in the NCAA tournament first round, 63-51.
The Rams and their West Coast Conference opponent traded leads early in the game, with VCU taking a one-point deficit into the half. Coming out of the lockers the Gaels made all the big shots VCU could not and turned a three-point lead with 11:21 to play into a double-digit advantage just over two minutes later. That advantage was made somewhat easier thanks to an Ace Baldwin ankle injury that sidelined the A-10 Player of the Year most of the second half. Baldwin attempted to give it a go minutes later, but shortly after returned back to the bench.
Despite his limited time on the floor, Baldwin led the Rams with a team-high 13 points in the loss, an unfortunate sign of how things went for the rest of the black and gold. Baldwin was 6-11 from the field on an afternoon where the 10th-ranked Gael’s defense limited the remaining VCU shooters to just 31.6% shooting from the field.
The Rams usually tough turnover defense forced just 12 in the loss to 14 VCU turnovers themselves. The Rams were also out-rebounded 37-29 in the loss and were outscored by 10 at the free throw stripe.
Jayden Nunn added nine points for the Rams and a team-high seven rebounds. He was 3-10 from the field.
Christian Fermin came in for VCU in limited minutes thanks to early foul trouble to VCU’s more experienced bigs. The freshman finished with a team-high two blocks on the night.
Jalen DeLoach and Jamir Watkins added seven rebounds each with Watkins grabbing five rebounds to go with two assists and a steal.
David Shriver added six points for VCU and was 2-5 from three-point range.
The loss ends what was otherwise an incredible season for the Rams. The black and gold finished the year 27-8 while winning the A-10 regular season and tournament championships.