Saint Louis tops VCU, captures A-10 title
NEW YORK (AP) — Kwamain Mitchell scored 19 points, including a huge 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, and tournament MVP Dwayne Evans added 16 to lead No. 16 Saint Louis to its first Atlantic 10 tourney title with a 62-56 win over No. 25 VCU on Sunday.
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The veteran Billikens stayed just poised enough against the Rams’ frenetic defensive pressure and a hostile crowd to win only the second conference tournament crown in school history.
Top-seeded Saint Louis (27-6) led 45-32 with less than 12 minutes left, and VCU was in all sorts of foul trouble. But the second-seeded Rams can erase a deficit as quickly as any team in the country, and VCU was within a point three minutes later.
Cody Ellis hit a 3-pointer on the Billikens’ next possession, then made another clutch 3 for a 57-51 lead with more than two minutes left.
Treveon Graham led VCU (26-8) with 20 points.
Saint Louis had been the best team in the Atlantic 10 all season, led by eight juniors and seniors and an interim coach in Jim Crews.
Coach Rick Majerus died in December after being hospitalized for several months, and fans chanted his name as the players celebrated the title.
VCU missed its first six 3-point attempts, and the Rams struggled through two scoring droughts of more than five minutes in the first half.
When they don’t score, they can’t set up their press, and Saint Louis didn’t commit a turnover for a 16-minute stretch spanning both halves.
But with VCU down 13, Graham hit a 3, just the Rams’ second of the day, to spark a trademark VCU run. Rob Brandenberg turned a turnover into a three-point play in transition, then Briante Weber dished to Juvonte Reddic for a basket in the paint.
When Melvin Johnson, a freshman from the Bronx, made a jumper to pull the Rams within four, he pumped his fist and the crowd erupted as Saint Louis called a timeout.
It did little to calm the Billikens. … [For more on Regular-season champ Saint Louis tops VCU, captures A-10 tourney title, click here.]