Barclays Center—VCU laid it all on the line the last ten minutes of the game. They weren’t going back to Virginia without the championship trophy in tow.
Jalen DeLoach scored 13 points and 10 boards as top-seeded VCU beat second-seeded Dayton 68-56 on Sunday to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the first time in eight years.
“To get to the championship game at VCU is something we want to do all the time, but we want to go win and to win it you got to go take it,” coach Mike Rhoades said. “I thought, at least the last 10 minutes of that game, we made plays, we had aggressiveness, we had toughness around the rim and rebounding and our defense showed up.”
When the Rams cut down the nets at Barclays Center, the VCU fans were rocking to a rendition of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.”
With the loss, Dayton fall to 22-12 overall for the season and probably get invited to the NIT Invitational.
The Flyers led 36-30, at the break but were outscored 38-20 in the second half. Dayton shot 6-30 from the field in the second half, including missing their last 15 shots.
The Rams held Dayton to six points and no field goals over the final 10:12 of the contest.
Ace Baldwin chipped in 16 points and seven assists, sending the Rams (27-7) to the NCAA tourney with a nine-game winning streak and counting. Baldwin was dancing in the paint area with his dribble drive penetration in the second half and was able to free up shots for his team mates.
VCU played in the A-10 final six times from 2013-21, winning just once in 2015 when it beat Dayton.
DaRon Holmes II tried to carry the Flyers (22-12) to their first A-10 title since 2003 and first NCAA bid in six years. Holmes had 28 points and 16 rebounds, but didn’t get enough support in the second half. Holmes is the second Flyer to be named the A-10′s Most Outstanding Player in a men’s a basketball tournament and the first since Ramon Marshall in 2003.
“They did a pretty good plan of executing their game plan in the second half,” Holmes said. “We just couldn’t fix it.”
The Rams earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2021, but the Rams haven’t played in the tournament since 2019. VCU had to forfeit its first-round game in 2021 because of COVID-19 protocols.
Dayton forward Mustapha Amzil chipped in 17 points, 15 in the first half but VCU clamped down on him in the second half to seal the win.