But this is where the Rams have found fresh mettle over the past two seasons under Dan Hurley, and it was in evidence again on Friday afternoon at Capital One Arena. VCU trailed by a 70-65 margin with just 3:16 left in regulation, however, the Rams were outstanding defensively down the stretch and was able to secure the victory after closing game on a 12-2 run. VCU had missed five straight shots at that point and was scoreless for 4:48, as URI produced an 8-0 run at the ideal time. "Our goal is to win the Atlantic 10".
"I just think it was exactly the type of game that we needed, and we needed it to be tight and we needed to get back to that free throw line today and some show guts and some nerves and close it out", Hurley added. Rhode Island was outstanding for most of the season, winning 16 straight games at one point, however, the Rams struggled a bit down the stretch losing 3 of their last 5 games including an embarrassing 30-point loss at home against Saint Joseph's.
"We finish, we finally finish", VCU Head Coach Mike Rhoades said.
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Miami outscored the Wizards 42-18 in the paint in the first half as the Heat attacked the basket consistently and effectively. Miami's decisive blow was delivered in the third quarter when it scored a season-best 43 points in the frame.
"We were just making plays", Dowtin said. We will play a lot better tomorrow. "Last year was kind of a coming out party for me".
All-Atlantic 10 First Team selection Justin Tillman led the way with 15 points and 10 rebounds - the senior forward's 17th double-double of the season in what has been a dominant senior swansong for the Black and Gold stalwart.
"You are not really expecting to see VCU in a quarterfinal game", Hurley said.
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Four players are averaging at least 9.2 points per game for VCU, they are Tillman (18.9), De'Riante Jenkins (12.8), Issac Vann (9.7) and Jonathan Williams (9.2). Some of the mental scar tissue that came with that 78-48 blowout on February 27 is still in evidence, as URI closed with just 11 points over the final 7:26.
Russell drained a deep 3-pointer as time expired in a back-and-forth first half, sending the Rams into the locker room with a 36-33 lead. Sensing a departure from the typical late-game woes of this season, the VCU attendees in D.C. urged their embattled Rams toward redemption at the tail end of a sub-par campaign.
Should good fortune continue, VCU's semifinal and championship time slots, Saturday, March 10, and Sunday, March 11, respectively, would be 1 p.m.
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Saint Joseph's got 14 points from guard Nick Robinson and 13 from Shavar Newkirk in the win over George Mason.