Friday, March 15, 2013

VCU Survives Thriller Against St. Joe's

Briante Weber may have scored just four points, but his five assists and five steals were major parts of VCU's 82-79 win over Saint Joseph's in Atlantic 10 quarterfinals.  (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

After nearly losing a 17-point lead to a hungry bubble team, the Atlantic 10's Defensive Player of the Year sealed the victory on the offensive end, capping off a night in which his biggest impact was made in the heat of battle in a fierce A-10 quarterfinal contest.

"He's huge for us because he causes problems," VCU coach Shaka Smart said of Briante Weber, the biggest contributor to the Rams' 82-79 victory over Saint Joseph's despite only scoring four points.  "He's got the most swagger of anyone on our team.  He's a scrapper, and we need that.  That's what we're all about.  We're not a pretty team, we're a scrappy team."

VCU proved their coach's assessment of their style by allowing the Hawks to climb back into the game despite five Rams scoring in double figures, led by a 17-point performance from Treveon Graham.  Buoyed by a 61 percent shooting rate from the field after halftime and an 8-of-12 effort from beyond the three-point line, Saint Joseph's was able to take the second-seeded Rams to the limit, but their head coach could not take any positives away from a valiant effort.

"When you lose, scoring points means nothing," said a brutally honest Phil Martelli.  "Nobody on our team played well.  We lost.  We didn't do a good job with how quickly they moved the ball, and the free throw line hurt us all night."

Carl Jones did score 29 points to lead all scorers, while his teammate Langston Galloway added 25 for the Hawks, who were clearly frustrated by VCU's "Havoc" defense; which scored 25 points off 17 forced turnovers and racked up a dozen steals in the process, led by Weber's five thefts.

With the win, VCU, whose rabid fan base and phenomenal pep band gave the Barclays Center its greatest and biggest buzz all weekend, moves into the Atlantic 10 semifinals tomorrow afternoon, where they will face either Massachusetts or Temple following the other semifinal contest between Saint Louis and Butler.  The Minutemen eliminated the Owls in last year's A-10 tournament, and the two teams are currently tied at 29 with 4:08 remaining in the first half as this is being written.

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