NCAA: VCU, Texas-San Antonio winners
The college hoops roundup …
DAYTON, Ohio ó It might not have looked pretty to others. It was a masterpiece for Virginia Commonwealth.
Jamie Skeen scored 16 points and VCU more than held its own inside against bigger and stronger Southern California to beat the Trojans 59-46 on Wednesday night in the finale of the NCAAís inaugural ěFirst Fourî tournament games at the University of Dayton Arena.
The 11th-seeded teams traded elbows and punishing defense all night, with the Rams (24-11) pulling away down the stretch to set up a game against sixth-seeded Georgetown (21-10) on Friday in Chicago.
Joey Rodriguez had eight points and five assists for VCU.
Jio Fontan had 14 points and Nikola Vucevic 11 for USC (19-15), which had just one field goal over the final 9 minutes.
Even though the Trojans started two 6-foot-10 wide-bodies inside, the Rams held a 40-31 edge in rebounding.
Vucevic, a first-team All-Pac-10 performer, had 14 rebounds and Alex Stepheson added 10. But the Rams had six players with at least three, led by Bradford Burgessí 10.
Maligned by some as unworthy of the NCAA field, the Rams played tight defense, survived the deep foul trouble that plagued both teams and hit big shots in the final minutes.
After trailing by as many as five points in the first half, the Rams broke free in the second half with their 3-point shooting.
Skeen hit a 3 to open the second-half scoring and Rodriguez ó scoreless to that point ó hit two 3s for a 28-24 lead. After Maurice Jones countered by hitting USCís first 3 of the game, VCUís Brandon Rozzell hit another shot behind the arc on the left wing to push the lead to 34-27 at the 14:25 mark.
The Rams would never give up the lead.
USC scrapped back after an intentional foul on a breakaway led to a free throw by Donte Smith. Fontanís free throw on the ensuing possession cut the Trojansí deficit to 44-43.
Then, with the shot clock running down, Rodriguez passed up a shot and flipped the ball to Ed Nixon, who hit the 3 from the left wing ó his only field goal of the game. The Rams then added two foul shots by Burgess and a shot off glass in traffic by Rodriguez for a 51-43 lead.
The Trojans hurt themselves at the line in such a foul-plagued game, hitting just 15 of 25 free throws. They missed three of four over the next minute while Juvonte Reddic was scoring inside to make it 53-44.
Fontan, the linchpin of the USC offense, then fouled out on a drive with 3:54 left, crippling the Trojansí attack.
The Rams padded their lead the rest of the way.
UT-SA 70, Alabama St. 61
DAYTON, Ohio ó Shot by shot, Melvin Johnson III played up to his penmanship.
The smooth guard with ěSWISHî scrawled on the side of each orange shoe scored a career-high 29 points Wednesday night, putting on the most scintillating show so far in the NCAA tournament while leading Texas-San Antonio to a 70-61 victory over Alabama State in the ěFirst Fourî round.
The Roadrunners (20-13) and their smooth guard head to Cleveland for a game Friday against top-seeded Ohio State, which wonít allow all those open shots.
Against Alabama State (17-18), Johnson took advantage of every one. The 6-foot-5 sophomore had a career high in the first half alone, when he outscored the star-struck Hornets 25-21.
Tramayne Moorer and Jeff Middlebrooks had 12 points apiece for Alabama State, which had the worst record in the expanded 68-team tournament.