Virginia Commonwealth gives critics, stunned Hoyas plenty to think about


CHICAGO -- All those critics who doubted Virginia Commonwealth, take note.

The Rams are still playing. And yet another team from the big, bad Big East is heading home.

Brandon Rozzell led four players in double figures and 11th-seeded VCU made 12 3-pointers to stun Georgetown with a 74-56 victory that showed any remaining skeptics the Rams do, indeed, belong in the NCAA Tournament.

Rozzell tied his career high with six 3-pointers and had 26 points for the Rams (25-11), who will play third-seeded Purdue on Sunday in the Southwest Region.

Joey Rodriguez supplied 17 points and seven assists, and Bradford Burgess and Jamie Skeen scored 12 each. VCU finished 12-for-25 from 3-point range.

As the game wound down, the raucous VCU fans chanted "Jay Bilas," the ESPN analyst who said the Rams didn't belong in the 68-team field.

"Any time people disrespect you, especially on national TV, it kind of hurts you," Rodriguez said. "We had an opportunity to come out and prove people wrong, and hopefully we can keep it going."

Not even the return of point guard Chris Wright could help the sixth-seeded Hoyas, who were handed their worst loss in the NCAA Tournament since a 24-point rout by top-seeded Massachusetts in the 1996 East regional final. Wright, who broke his left hand Feb. 23 in the second half against Cincinnati, had six points on 3-for-13 shooting and only three assists.

The Big East is considered the best league in the country and sent 11 teams to the tournament, but four lost their opening games. Since making the Final Four in 2007, Georgetown has won only one game in the NCAA Tournament.

"A lot will be discussed about this group and what they have and haven't done in the postseason," coach John Thompson III said. "Right now, my thoughts are with four seniors who for the last time were able to wear a Georgetown jersey. And that hurts."

Coming off a victory over Southern California in the "First Four" on Wednesday, VCU has multiple wins in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. The Rams upset Duke in the first round in 2007, then lost to Pittsburgh in overtime.

Bilas might have been the Rams' most vocal critic, but there were plenty who doubted VCU's worthiness. The Rams skidded into the tournament with losses in five of their previous eight games, and they're from one of those midmajor conferences that get, at best, grudging respect.

But these Rams aren't about to back down. After outmuscling bigger, stronger USC, they did the same to the even bigger, even stronger Hoyas. With VCU trailing 19-18 with 7:48 left in the first half, Rozzell hit a 3-pointer to spark a 9-0 run that put the Rams ahead for good.

Any chance Georgetown had of getting back in the game after halftime ended quickly, as Ed Nixon opened with a 3-pointer to trigger a 14-4 run that put VCU ahead 49-28 with about 15 minutes remaining.

"When we play our brand of basketball, we feel we can compete with any team in the country," Rozzell said.

 

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