Stephen F. Austin was done when they were down 11 points with under seven minutes left. The Lumberjacks were finished when Jordan Burgess drilled a three-pointer to push VCU's lead to 65-59 with 56 seconds remaining. The game was over when Briante Weber made a free throw to put VCU up four points with 21 seconds left.
And then one of the craziest endings you'll ever see at the NCAA Tournament happened. Here's how:
- VCU missed four of their final five free throws. This is a theme we've seen repeated throughout the tournament -- Mark Gottfried feels for you, Shaka Smart -- repeated once again.
- VCU's Burgess missed a free throw with 10 seconds left with the Rams up four points. Stephen F. Austin swung the ball to right wing where Desmond Haymon released a three-pointer with three seconds left. As soon as the ball left Haymon's hands, VCU's JeQuan Lewis ran into the shooter and knocked him down. The ball went in, the foul was called, and Stephen F. Austin had done the impossible coming back down four in a situation where it was obvious they were only going to get one possession.
Here are some moving pictures to help make sure of this:
A closer look at Lewis' pained reaction, as if it really needs one:
Here's the thing: YOU NEVER FOUL THE SHOOTER IN THAT SITUATION.
It doesn't even need to be said because everyone knows it. If Lewis just lets Haymon make the three without a hard closeout, it's almost certain VCU still wins the game (save for an intercepted inbounds pass or something).
We can all marvel at how insane the end of regulation was, but if you can think about it from a human perspective for a moment, it's a terrible thing to happen to Lewis, who is only a freshman. He will probably be living with that foul for the rest of his life. No one deserves that, even after a bad mistake in the biggest moment of your career.
Of course, Stephen F. Austin would not be denied in overtime, even when it looked like they would be. VCU's HAVOC press looked like it had forced a turnover down one with a minute left when the ball dribbled to Jacob Parker near the right baseline. The Southland Conference Player of the Year drained the jumper and VCU would never get close enough again.
The Lumberjacks haven't lost since Nov. 23. Their season was so good we had to write about it twice, and make sure you read both Rodger and Andy on how Stephen F. Austin got here. We also did the beautiful Chasing Cinderella video embedded above that is well worth your time.
All that is left, as they say, is the thrill of victory ...
... and the agony of defeat.
What a game. Long live the NCAA Tournament.