VCU avoids upset, holds on to edge St. Joseph's

Dave Buscema, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- It appeared for most of the second half as though most of the Havoc in the Virginia Commonwealth-St. Joseph's matchup this time would follow the play and histrionics of St. Joseph's volatile forward Halil Kanacevic.
But 10th-seeded St. Joseph's created some havoc of its own in the final minutes, cutting deep into what had once been a 17-point deficit before second-seeded VCU locked up an 82-79 victory Friday night.
Kanacevic was called for a Flagrant-1 foul midway through the second half, with St. Joseph's still in range of an upset, but No. 25 VCU and its vaunted Havoc defense used the momentum boost to open a big lead. St. Joseph's, which took the Rams to overtime in a loss during the regular season, again made it tense down the stretch, but VCU held on for a victory at the Barclays Center.
Treveon Graham led the Rams (25-7, 13-4 Atlantic 10) with 17 points in their first trip to the Atlantic 10 Tournament after 17 seasons in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Troy Daniels had 14 points and Rob Bradenberg added 13 for VCU, which will play the Temple-UMass winner at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Carl Jones scored 29 points to lead St. Joseph's (18-13, 8-9), while passing the 1,800-point mark for his career. Langston Galloway, who sent the Hawks to the quarterfinals with two last-second free throws Thursday against Xavier, added 25 for St. Joseph's.
The Hawks were down 51-43 with 11:22 left in the second half when Kanacevic, spotted with a raised elbow while jockeying around the basket, was called for the flagrant foul. Kanacevic, who was suspended for flipping off the Villanova crowd earlier this year, jawed with VCU -- did a push-up after drawing a foul in the first half -- protested the call.
But VCU immediately benefited from the call. Graham hit two free throws for the Rams and the lead was back to 10. Daniels added a 3-pointer 12 seconds later and Darius Theus added a layup a little more than a minute after that and VCU led 58-43 with 9:59 to play.
The Rams would get the lead up to 17. St. Joseph's threatened late with a 12-2 run, getting within 74-69 when Jones hit a 3-pointer with just under a minute left. Another 3 by Galloway got it to 80-76 with 9.1 seconds remaining, but a dunk by Weber capped the win for VCU, which hit 8 of 10 free throws in the final minute.
Papa Ndao hit a 3 for St. Joseph's at the buzzer.
The Hawks, who took the Rams to overtime during the regular season before falling, opened the second half looking to send the game to the wire again.
Trailing by 10 at halftime, St. Joseph's started the second half on a 12-5 run to pull within 38-35 when Jones hit a 3-pointer with 16:58 remaining.
But the Rams came out of a timeout and got 3-pointers from Bradenberg and Daniels on consecutive possessions and Graham later followed a steal by Briante Weber with another 3 for VCU to get the lead back up to 10. Graham's 3-pointer gave the Rams a 47-37 lead with 14:47 left.
VCU entered halftime with a 33-23 lead, with Theus leading the Rams with nine points.
The Rams finished the first half with a 9-2 spurt, capped by Theus' basket in the final seconds of the first half for the 10-point lead, VCU's biggest to that point.
Jones led St. Joseph's with eight points entering the break.
Notes: Jones passed the 1,800-point mark, having entered the game with 1,795. Only two other St. Joseph's players have reached that milestone. Jameer Nelson (2000-04) had 2,094 and Bernard Blunt (1990-95) had 1,985. ... VCU entered the game as the nation's leader in steals and its plus-eight turnover margin ranked as the sixth-highest turnover margin in NCAA Division I history. ... St. Joseph's entered the game having won three of its last four, including the last-second win over Xavier in the tournament's first round Thursday.

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