VCU wraps up CBI title
ST. LOUIS – VCU had pretty simple motivation to finish off the best-of-three CBI championship without a Game 3.
“Just trying to get home,” said Jamie Skeen, who hit a pair of crucial baskets in the final two minutes of the Rams’ 71-65 victory over Saint Louis on Wednesday night. “If we win, we get to go home.”
Top reserve Brandon Rozzell scored a career-high 27 points and was 4 for 7 from 3-point range, helping VCU beat Saint Louis for the second time in three nights.
“We wanted this to be our last game,” Rozzell said. “We kept that in mind.”
Saint Louis (23-13) led by nine at halftime and again early in the second half before fading with a roster of freshmen and sophomores. Game 3 would have been Friday night in St. Louis.
“It was a great experience for us,” coach Rick Majerus said. “It was an honor to play in it. We didn’t have a good year, we had a great year.”
Skeen added 16 points and six rebounds and Joey Rodriguez had 13 points for the Rams (27-9), who compensated for an off-game by leading scorer Larry Sanders. He was in foul trouble much of the game and held to three points and four rebounds. Sanders had 20 points and 12 rebounds in a 68-56 victory Monday in Richmond, Va.
First-year coach Shaka Smart said before the game he discussed finishing the year on a five-game winning streak. The Rams finished fifth in the Colonial Athletic Association and lost only twice in their final 12 games, both times to CAA champion Old Dominion.
“We talked about this as the knockout game,” Smart said. “For a while it didn’t look like there was going to be anybody knocking anybody out.
“It was won on the defensive end.”
Willie Reed had 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks for Saint Louis. Freshman Corey Remekun added career-bests with 13 points and seven rebounds for the Billikens, who finished 18-4 at home.
Cody Ellis was held to three points, eight below his average, on 1-for-9 shooting. Saint Louis was 2 for 18 from three-point range for a two-game total of 7 for 38.
“Cody’s had a great year; he hit that freshman wall,” Majerus said. “We get so many open shots and we can’t hit.
“I told these guys, ‘You’ve got to be able to make shots.”‘
Another guard, Kyle Cassity, had four assists and a steal in 33 minutes but didn’t attempt a shot due to an undisclosed injury.
“Cassity was just like a dying dog,” Majerus said. “I applaud the kid, he kept wanting to play.”
VCU outscored Saint Louis 9-2 to pull away from a 61-all tie with 3:04 remaining, with Remekun finally scoring for the Billikens with seven seconds left. Rozzell’s previous best was 20 points against College of Charleston on March 22.
Saint Louis had appeared to seize control with 7:18 to go in the half on a five-point play – Sanders’ second foul plus a technical that put the Billikens ahead 23-20. Saint Louis led 33-24 at the break.
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