By Gabe Hauari
Saint Mary’s defeated VCU 85-77 on Thursday night in Salt Lake City in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Gaels got a balanced offensive effort, as they had five players score in double figures.
Saint Mary’s was led by center Jock Landale and his double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds. They also got contributions from Calvin Hermanson (16 points), Joe Rahon (16 points), Emmett Naar (13 points) and Tanner Krebs (12 points).
VCU was led by senior point guard JeQuan Lewis, who had a game-high 30 points on 12-of-28 shooting. He went just 2-of-9 from beyond the arc, but those two were the only 3-pointers VCU made all game.
“He’s a warrior,” said VCU head coach Will Wade. “I love the kid to death and I’m going to miss him. He’s got a bright future ahead,” said Wade of his point guard.
The Rams had trouble stopping Saint Mary’s offense all game, as they raced out to a 46-31 halftime lead. However, VCU went on a 15-2 run in the second half to close the deficit to two points while Rahon sat for the Gaels due to foul trouble.
“I was trying to figure out how long we could go before putting him back in there,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett.
“It was a good year. It’s disappointing any time you end it,” said Wade. “But I’m proud of our guys and proud of our program,” he added.
“They’re a tremendous, tremendous team, both offensively and defensively,” said Wade of Saint Mary’s.
The Gaels used Landale and his size to their advantage, out-rebounding VCU by a 37-29 margin and limiting VCU to 11 second-chance points. The Rams had just six assists on the night.
The most noteworthy statistic, however, is the amount of fouls there were in the game: 65, with 39 of them being called on VCU. The Rams were whistled for 21 fouls in the second half alone.
With the win, Saint Mary’s advances to the second round of the NCAA tournament, where they will face the winner between Arizona and North Dakota.
With the loss, VCU’s season comes to an end. The Rams finished with a record of 26-9 and graduate five seniors: Torey Burston, Mo Alie-Cox, JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess, and Doug Brooks.