In a sea of yellow and red Friday night at Barclays Center, No. 25 VCU emerged with an 82-79 win over St. Joseph's to punch its ticket to the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals.
Though the Rams seemed in control, knocking down 11 shots from deep, the Hawks stuck with the No. 25 team in the country for much of the game. It wasn't until Halil Kanacevic picked up a flagrant I foul with 11:22 left that the Rams began to pull away.
Graham led VCU with 17 points, but the Rams used a balanced attack, tallying five players in double figures. Daniels had 14 points on four three pointers.
When the Rams weren't shooting the three, they were tearing down the floor in search of the fast break. Made baskets and defensive rebounds turned into outlets on both sides of the fast-paced game, which turned into layups or blocks that brought Barclays Center to its feet.
The Hawks did the best they could to keep up. The backcourt duo of Carl Jones (29 points) and Langston Galloway (25 points) provided plenty of offense, while Kanacevic was in double figures as well with ten. But the St. Joseph's stars didn't get enough help. The Hawks had just 15 points from other players.
But that almost didn't matter, as St. Joseph's made a furious comeback in the final two minutes behind tight defense and missed VCU shots. The 10-0 run cut the Hawks' deficit to five with 50 seconds left, but it was too little, too late. Despite four threes in the final two minutes, including one at the buzzer that accounted for the final margin, St. Joseph's could not pull off the comeback.
With the loss, St. Joseph's dropped to 18-13 on the season and will have to hope for an NIT bid, which will be announced on Sunday. Meanwhile, VCU lives to play another day in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The second-seeded Rams will face either third-seeded Temple or sixth-seeded Massachusetts in the second half of Saturday's semifinal doubleheader.