Saturday, March 16, 2024

A10 Semis: VCU & Duquesne To Play For Title Sunday


Joe Bamisile of VCU slams down a dunk with just 42 seconds left in their win over Saint Joseph's. Photo by Jason Schott.

In the A-10 Semifinals on Saturday at Barclays Center, VCU won the opening game, as they outlasted Saint Joseph’s, 66-60, while Duquesne beat St. Bonaventure, 70-60. 

VCU, looking to repeat as tournament champion, and Duquesne will meet in the A-10 Championship Game on Sunday at 1:00 P.M. 

No. 5 VCU 66, No. 9 Saint Joseph’s 60: VCU raced out to a 21-12 run, but a Cameron Brown three-pointer at the 3:57 mark of the first half sparked a late surge for Saint Joseph's. Erik Reynolds II followed with a fast break basket off a turnover and a three-pointer, and a hook shot from Chris Essandoko capped a 10-0 run to put them up 22-21, and they took a 25-23 edge into the break.

VCU opened the second half on an 8-2 run over the first one minute and 39 seconds capped by a Max Shugla three-pointer that made it 31-27. St. Joseph's would regain the lead, at 39-37, when Lynn Greer III buried a turnaround jumper at 12:54.

It was back and forth, to the point that it was tied at 55 with 3:34 left when Saint Joe's forward Rasheer Fleming drained a three-pointer.

Rasheer Fleming of Saint Joseph's taking an open three-pointer from the left side that tied the game at 55. Photo by Jason Schott. 

Joe Bamisile responded with a floating jumper in the paint to put VCU ahead, 57-55, at the 3:16 mark and they never trailed the rest of the way. Bamisile had an emphatic dunk that put VCU up 63-60 with 42 seconds left, and Shulga sealed it with a pair of free throws to make it a five-point lead with 12 seconds left.

VCU was led by Max Shulga, who had 25 points - with 19 in the second half - on a near-perfect 10-11 from the field, including 3-4 on three-pointers, with four rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Sean Bairstow had 13 points (6-13 FG, 1-4 threes), two rebounds, and an assist. Zeb Jackson had 12 points (6-13 FG), eight rebounds, and an assist.

Saint Joseph’s was led by Erik Reynolds II, who had 18 points on 7-13 from the field, including 4-9 on threes, with four assists and two rebounds. Cameron Brown had 13 points (5-13 FG, 3-9 threes), three rebounds, and two steals.

It was an intense atmosphere with plenty of supporters for both VCU and Saint Joseph's. Photo by Jason Schott.

COACH'S COMMENTS: VCU Head Coach Ryan Odom: “Really proud of our team. Even before I get into that, I want to congratulate Saint Joe’s, Coach Lange and his staff, his players, on such a great season and a really hard-fought battle each game that they played here in the tournament. They’re really tough. They have a collection of players that competes really hard, that really put a ton of pressure on us in this game. And even the game, obviously, in Richmond. The shot-making, the execution on the offensive end - and then the defensive execution that they had caused us to have some really tough spurts out there where we struggled scoring.

“The transition offense in the first half kind of got us. We really botched some plays in and around the rim when we had some advantages. Probably weren’t patient enough to find some more advantages behind us, as opposed to the rim. I thought Saint Joe’s did a nice job of walling up at the rim a few times, where we got out and got ahead. We just couldn’t convert those to create a little bit more separation. 

“Obviously, the goal-tend changed the score of the game there, and it was a little bit tighter in that timeout than it actually was. Obviously, I know it was a good call. But from a mental perspective, that changed a little bit. They did a nice job going on a run to finish the half and have a two-point lead.

“We talked about at halftime that we had been here before. Certainly at home against them; and then obviously, the first game (of the A-10 Tournament) against Fordham, being down two. We have been there plenty of times this season, and we just needed to come out halftime with a better defensive effort and more execution on offense. I think, obviously, we were led by Max’s ability to make timely shots over and over and over again. The guys trusted one another, and the defense really stiffened and tightened up as the game wore on…Really proud of the guys and certainly looking forward to our prep for tomorrow.”

Saint Joseph's Head Coach Billy Lange: "A great game. You can't say it's only a blessing when you win, and then you don't have faith if that's the way you look at it. So it's just been a blessing to compete with these guys. I wish we had one more day to grow, one more day to learn, one more day to unite.

"I told them in the locker room, like, there's elation in victory when you have a tight group. And then there's joy in suffering when you do it with people that you know love you and care about you, and that's the group that we had. I mean, they fought like crazy, and VCU is great, and it was an amazing second half by both teams, and either team could have won. So give credit to VCU.

"Sometimes we put so much emphasis on, like, who won and who lost. This was a great game. Somebody was going to win and somebody was going to lose. We could have been the team that went first in the media, but we're not. (referencing the order of postgame press conferences) We'll learn from it. We had some young guys grow up, but it's been a blessing to compete for the last four days with this group."

Duquesne's Jimmy Clark III slamming one home to give them a 34-22 edge early in the second half. Photo by Jason Schott. 

No. 6 Duquesne 70, No. 7 St. Bonaventure 60: Duquesne dominated this one on defense early, as they led 28-22 at the break after holding the Bonnies to just 40 percent, or 10-25 shooting, and 1-8 (12.5%) from behind the arc, in the first half.

Duquesne opened the second half with an 8-0 run to buff their lead up to 14, at 36-22, when Jake DiMichele made a jumper at 15:49. St. Bonaventure did make a run, as they pulled to within four, at 50-46 when Charles Pride buried a three-pointer at 6:27. 

Dae Dae Grant responded with a three at 5:21 that put Duquesne back up seven, 53-46, and eventually, the Dukes took a nine-point lead when Jimmy Clark III converted a three-point play to make it 62-53 with just 1:51 left.

Dae Dae Grant led Duquesne with 27 points on 10-15 from the field, including 6-9 on three-pointers, with three assists and two rebounds. Jimmy Clark III had 18 points (8-15 FG, 1-5 threes), with eight rebounds and six assists. Jake DiMichele had 12 points (5-7 FG, 2-3 threes), with two assists and a rebound.

St. Bonaventure was led by Daryl Banks III, who had 14 points on 4-12 shooting and 6-6 from the free-throw line, while he missed his four three-point attempts. Assa Essamvous had 10 points (4-7 FG, 2-5 threes), with three rebounds.

COACH’S COMMENTS: Duquesne Head Coach Keith Dambrot: “Just upmost respect for St. Bonaventure, Coach Schmidt in particular. It was like a rock fight. A bunch of tough guys out there just competing hard. We just made a few more plays when it mattered than they did. But we’re fortunate to get out of it. We’re happy to get out of it. Hopefully we’ll have enough juice for tomorrow.”

St. Bonaventure Head Coach Mark Schmidt: “All the credit goes to Duquesne. I thought Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark played extremely well. That was a concern going into the game. They shoot 18-30 7-14 from threes. It’s hard. Every time we made a run, it just seemed like they made a shot. One was a circus shot. But they scored 39 of the 70 points.

“They were a load. And we didn’t play - I thought we got - we went small and I thought it gave us some energy, just like the other night. But we shoot 6-25 from threes. Just, we weren’t good enough and a lot had to do with Duquesne and we wish them luck in the championship tomorrow. But they outplayed us.”

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