Sunday, March 12, 2023

A-10 Tournament Day 5: VCU & Their Tenacious D Outlast Dayton To Claim Title


VCU was proclaimed champions at the entrance to Barclays Center. Photo by Jason Schott.

VCU turned it up on the defensive end, as they held Dayton to 20 points in the second half, to walk away with a 68-56 win in the Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament Final on Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center.

This is the VCU Rams' second A-10 Championship, as they won the first one in 2015 at Barclays Center, also over the Dayton Flyers. Their first season in the conference was 2012-13, and they appeared in five straight championship games, and returned to it in 2021. Until today, they had only won one of those six title games, which is rather surprising for what a consistent program this is going back to when Shaka Smart put them on the map with a Final Four appearance in 2011.

In the first half, VCU's stout defense had no answer for Dayton's big men, Mustapha Amzil, who had 15 points on 4-5 from the field, 1-2 on three-pointers, and a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line; and Daron Holmes II, who had 14 points on 6-9 shooting.

Daron Holmes II cashing in the first basket of the game to help Dayton get off to a solid start. Photo by Jason Schott.

That powered Dayton a 36-30 halftime lead, and they eventually built their lead up to nine points, at 43-34, 2:53 into the second half on a Toumani Carera layup.

VCU responded with a 10-0 run to take a 44-43 lead, a run that included a pair of three-pointers from Brandon, Johns, Jr., and Jayden Nunn. That was a good sign after a first half in which they shot just 3-8 from behind the arc, and 9-25 (36 percent) overall.

Dayton would battle back and re-take the lead, at 50-49, on a three-pointer by Holmes II, with 10:12 left. 

That would be Dayton's last lead, as VCU responded with a 18-7 run to close out the game. 

Dayton shot just 20 percent in the second half, as they made just six baskets out of 30 attempts, and were 1-13 (8%) from behind the arc. This was a swift reversal from the first half, when they shot 46 percent from the field (12-26), which included 2-9 (22%) on threes. For the game, they were 3-22, or a mere 13.6 percent, from behind the arc.

VCU was led by Adrian Baldwin, Jr., who had 16 points on 4-10 shooting, including 2-6 on three-point attempts, and 6-10 from the free-throw line, with seven assists and two rebounds. Jalen DeLoach had 13 points (5-8 FG) and 10 rebounds (five each on the offensive and defensive ends) to give him a double-double, along with three assists. Jamir Watkins, in 28 minutes off the bench, also had 13 points on 4-9 from the field, 3-4 from behind the arc, eight rebounds, and an assist.

Adrian Baldwin, Jr., sealing the win late at the free-throw line. Photo by Jason Schott.

VCU is in the NCAA Tournament, as a 12th seed in the West regional, with their first game against St. Mary's on Friday, March 17. They are the only team in the Atlantic 10 to make it to March Madness, as Dayton and Fordham, the second- and third-ranked teams in the conference, did not make the NCAA Tournament or NIT.


The Dayton band rocked Barclays. All photos by Jason Schott.

The VCU dance team taking the floor.

The crowd was on their feet for most of the second half. 

The Simba Cam was one of many fun features for fans during timeouts.

The view of the Barclays Center obelisk after the game.

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