Saturday, March 11, 2023

A-10 Tournament Day 4: VCU Slips By Saint Louis & Dayton Downs Fordham

Fans watch the VCU band perform under the obelisk outside Barclays Center on Saturday morning. Photo by Jason Schott.


In the Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament semifinals on Saturday afternoon at Barclays Center, VCU beat Saint Louis, 90-78, while Dayton outlasted Fordham, 78-68. VCU will meet Dayton in the Final on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 P.M.

VCU 90, Saint Louis 78: The top seen in this tournament, VCU, led this from the start over No. 4 Saint Louis, and they had a 44-39 lead at halftime.

The Rams thoroughly took it over when they opened the second half with a 14-2 run to open up a 58-41 lead when Jayden Nunn hit a jumper at the 16:51 mark. Their lead would expand as high as 25 points, at 80-55, when Jalen DeLoach got a layup with  6:08 remaining.

VCU was led by Nunn, who had 18 points on 7-9 from the field, including 3-3 from behind the arc, with three rebounds and an assist. Brandon Johns, Jr., had 16 points on 6-9 shooting, with nine rebounds, and three assists. Adrian Baldwin, Jr., had 13 points (5-11 FG, 1-3 on three-pointers), with six assists and five rebounds.

Saint Louis was led by Javon Pickett, who had 18 points on 7-12 shooting, including 1-2 on threes, with three rebounds and an assist. Javonte Perkins had 13 points (4-7 FG, 3-4 threes), with a rebound and an assist.

Dayton's Toumani Camara blocking Fordham's Will Richardson on a layup at the basket in the second half. Photo by Jason Schott.

Dayton 78, Fordham 68: This battle between second-seeded Dayton and Fordham, the third seed upstart from The Bronx, had the most intense atmosphere of the tournament, with 10,156 fans rocking the Barclays Center. A lion's share of those fans were in the maroon of Fordham hoping they would keep their miracle season going.

Fordham guard Will Richardson being introduced at a raucous Barclays Center. Photo by Jason Schott.

Dayton dominated the first half, powered by 13 points from Toumani Camara, but Fordham fought to stay in it, backed by 14 from Khalid Moore, to keep it a three-point Dayton lead, 36-33, at halftime.

Fordham came out strong in the second half, when a Will Richardson jumper gave them a 46-45 lead at the 14:17 mark.

Dayton took the lead right back, and never relinquished it, eventually putting the game away with a 9-0 run to make it 68-58 on a Mustapha Amzil three-pointer with 3:38 remaining.

Dayton was led by Camara, who had 28 points on a near-perfect 12-13 from the field, with seven rebounds and three assists. DaRon Holmes II had 20 points on 7-11 shooting, with six rebounds and two assists. Malachi Smith had 11 points (4-6 FG, 1-2 on threes), with seven assists and a rebound.

Fordham was led by Moore, who had 24 points on 9-16 from the field, including 3-6 from behind the arc, with seven rebounds and an assist. Richardson had 16 points (5-10 FG, 4-7 on threes), with two rebounds and an assist. Rostyslav Novitskyi had 13 points  (5-9 FG), three rebounds, and an assist.

Darius Quisenberry, a senior guard who led Fordham with 22 points in their win over La Salle in the quarterfinals, was hobbled by a shoulder injury in the second half, which held him to just eight points on 3-12 shooting, including 1-9 on three-pointers, with five assists, three rebounds, and two steals in 37 minutes.

Fordham Head Coach Keith Urgo said of Quisenberry in his postgame press conference, "That kid's" before composing himself, "we'll be forever grateful for that. He's a man both on and off the court. He carried himself with such great character. He fit at Fordham and he bleeds - bleeds - the name on the front of the jersey and, you know every day he would come in and work harder. He was an unbelievable example for guys like Will Richardson. He doesn't care what he looks like, he just comes out and he plays so hard, diving all over the floor. We know how much pain he was in, he just kept playing as hard. He didn't have his best night offensively, but he never stops playing. You never need to worry about whether or not that kid is going to leave every ounce of energy that he can possibly muster up on the court, and again, that's just a testament to the type of character he is, the type of competitor he is, and we will be forever grateful for what he's brought to our program."

Dayton Head Coach Anthony Grant said of his team's win in his postgame press conference, "I think the first thing is, my hat's off to the Fordham group, their staff, the coaches, players, a heck of a run all year long. I told them the first time that we played them, I told Coach (Keith) Urgo, that what he was doing with his group was special. Those guys went out and had a great year. The atmosphere today, you know, that's A-10 basketball what you saw out there today, that's what it's all about. Our guys showed unbelievable toughness, a level of grit that you've got to have in March, and we understood that we had to make plays on the offensive end with the ways they were mixing up their defenses. It was more about making plays, and we needed to be able to defend at a high level and rebound the ball at a high level. Down the stretch, the last 12 minutes or so, our defense went to another level, so I'm extremely proud of our group to be able to get to this point."

Urgo said of the game and the atmosphere, "I want to thank Rose Thrill, and what an unbelievable experience they created here in Brooklyn and the wonderful Fordham alumni and fans that we had here. The energy in the building was fantastic and we are incredibly grateful for all the love and support we've seen over the last several months, but specifically the last couple of days.

"I want to congratulate Coach Grant and his staff - they've done an amazing job throughout the year. I find it funny that people don't realize how difficult their year was, and to do what they've done and be able to hold their program together like that, through all the adversity and injuries and everything they've gone through. That team is one hell of a basketball team and their kids showed up and played really hard.

"As far as we're concerned, I mean, our goal is to always be the best team we can be by the end of the year, and there is absolutely no doubt that our program reached that potential."

Fordham finished the season with an overall record of 25-8, which includes a 1-1 record in this tournament and a 12-6 A-10 regular season record. In reference to Urgo calling it "Rose Thrill," their legendary home court, Rose Hill, took on that nickname as they lost just two games there all season, one of which was to Dayton on January 10, when they lost 82-58.

Later in the press conference, Urgo made a bold declaration, "We're a winning program, haven't had a losing season in two years now, so there's expectations of winning now...These guys expect to come back and do something really special. I don't think they're looking at anything but getting better each and every time they go out on the floor...They'll come back and they'll be ready to go. This isn't just a one-hit wonder."


VCU vs. Dayton - 1:00 P.M., airing on CBS

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