VCU surprises again, knocks off Hoyas 74-56
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Maligned as an at-large pick, Virginia Commonwealth is showing it belonged in the NCAA tournament all along.
Brandon Rozzell hit six 3-pointers and finished with 26 points, and the 11th-seeded Rams upset another big-name opponent, this time beating sixth-seeded Georgetown 74-56 in the second round of the Southwest Regional on Friday night.
Surprise winners over Southern California in the first round after struggling late in the season, VCU is sticking around after upsetting another team from a power conference.
This time, VCU hit 12 3-pointers with Rozzell making 6 of 10 while tying a career high. Joey Rodriguez added 17 points and seven assists. Bradford Burgess added 12 points and eight rebounds, and Jamie Skeen scored 12.
"I think we're playing for all the mid-majors across the country, not just our conference (Colonial Athletic Association) but everywhere," Rozzell said. "I think we're doing a good job for our conference, specifically."
He mentioned George Mason beating Villanova, Old Dominion losing to Butler on a buzzer-beater and added: "I think our brand of basketball is good to compete. We compete everyday in our conference. It's carrying us a long way."
Hollis Thompson scored 26 points for Georgetown and hit 4 of 6 3s. But he was the only Hoya connecting on a night when they hit just 5 of 26 from the outside.
So it'll be VCU — not Georgetown — playing Purdue for a shot at the round of 16 on Sunday. The third seed in the Southwest Regional, the Boilermakers advanced with an easy 65-43 win over St. Peter's.
Second-seeded Notre Dame will meet 10th-seeded Florida State, after the Fighting Irish knocked off Akron 69-56 and the Seminoles beat Texas A&M 57-50 for their first NCAA win in 13 years.
VCU was a controversial pick after dropping five of eight. Then, it topped USC in the first round on Wednesday. Now, Georgetown is gone and the Rams are still standing.
They led 35-24 at halftime after Rodriguez hit three free throws with 45 seconds left and Burgess hit two more with 6 seconds remaining.
But they really did their damage from long range.
Rozzell made three 3s in a nine-point half, and Ed Nixon made it a 14-point game when he started the second with one of his own.
From there, things started getting out of hand.
Burgess hit a 3 to make it 46-28. Rodriguez followed with another, bumping the lead to 21 just over five minutes into the half, and the Rams fans were loving it.
Actually, they were having a good time the whole night, chanting "VCU! VCU!" and giving the Colonial Athletic Association some love toward the end.
Now, VCU will play Purdue, which got 19 points from E'Twaun Moore and 16 points and 16 rebounds from JaJuan Johnson in an easy win over St. Peter's.
The Boilermakers (26-7) started the tournament on a strong note after struggling late in the season, and are one win away from their third straight round of 16 after overwhelming the Peacocks (20-14). They built a 33-17 halftime lead and broke away in the second after scoring the first seven points.
"Guys really understand how this tournament works," said Purdue guard Lewis Jackson, who added 12 points. "We understand how teams with a higher seed overlook a team with a 13 or 16 seed behind their name. ... We understand we have to come out and worry about Purdue and not overlook a team because of their seeding."
Purdue didn't exactly roll into this one, losing its regular-season finale at Iowa and getting blown out in its first game in the Big Ten tournament by Michigan State, but it looked good on Friday.
Moore overcame seven turnovers and became Purdue's career leader in 3-pointers made, hitting one to give him 243 and break a tie with Jaraan Cornell.
"It's kind of ironic because in high school, I didn't usually shoot a lot of 3s," Moore said. "I think it's kind of ironic that now I'm the leading three-point shooter."
Skittish at the start, Notre Dame was leading scrappy Akron by just four at the break. The Fighting Irish caught their breath and quickly took control, scoring the first nine of the second half to build a more comfortable lead and then holding on for a 13-point win.
Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough scored 15 points. Tim Abromaitis added 14, Scott Martin added 9 of his 11 points in the second half and Carleton Scott tied his high with 14 rebounds.
Martin — a transfer from Purdue who sat out two seasons, one after injuring his knee — played a big role in the second half with six early points to help get the Irish on track.
Hansbrough, who shot just 3 for 16 in a loss to Louisville in the semifinals of the conference tourney, was just 4 of 11 from the field. But he hit all six free throws and had six assists.
"I thought he forced plays at times in the first half," coach Mike Brey said. "In the second half, his decision making was excellent, and it helped us flow," Brey said.
Florida State, meanwhile, is moving on in the tournament for the first time since 1998 after beating seventh-seeded Texas A&M.
Derwin Kitchen scored 15 points. Bernard James added 10 points and three blocks, keying a go-ahead run in the second half, and the Seminoles (22-10) advanced even though star Chris Singleton was limited in his return from a broken right foot, finishing with five points and four fouls.
"It feels pretty good, but we're not satisfied with the win," Kitchen said. "We want to try and keep playing as long as possible."
If they keep this up, they'll be hard to stop.
Tops in the nation in field-goal defense, they held Texas A&M (24-9) to 31.4-percent shooting on the way to their first NCAA win since they beat TCU in the first round in 1998. The Seminoles had dropped three straight NCAA games, losing to Wisconsin in overtime in 2009 and Gonzaga last season.
For the Aggies, it was a disappointing finish to a season in which they exceeded expectations and wound up in the NCAAs for the sixth straight year.
Khris Middleton scored 16 points for Texas A&M — 11 in the first half. Nathan Walkup added 11, David Loubeau scored 10, but a team that was hoping to two-step its way to tournament games in Texas can forget about that.
"It's an amazing accomplishment we were in this tournament," coach Mark Turgeon said. "We earned it. I even thought we earned a little bit of a higher seed; we didn't play like that today."
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