VCU shocks Kansas, continues magical run into Final FourMar 28, 2011 - 1:33 AM
Jamie Skeen poured in 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, as the Rams took down top-seeded Kansas, 71-61, to move into the Final Four for the first time in school history.
VCU looked and played like the better team Sunday, using a three-point barrage and effective defense to build a double-digit lead in the first half. The Rams (28-11) held on to pull off the upset and win the Southwest Region.
They will play Butler, last year's runner-up, in the national semifinals on April 2.
"Once again we felt like nobody really thought we could win going into the game," said VCU head coach Shaka Smart, who wore the cut-down net around his neck during his press conference. "But these guys believed we could win. They knew we could win."
Their run is reminiscent of George Mason's during the 2006 tourney. Like VCU, the Patriots were seeded 11th and reached the Final Four. Like VCU, they defeated their region's top seed along the way. The schools even belong to the same conference -- the Colonial Athletic Association.
The 2006 tourney was also the last time there was not a No. 1 seed in the Final Four.
But there is a primary difference between the two runs -- VCU had to win an extra game to get there. The Rams beat USC in a First Four matchup, and defeated Georgetown, Purdue, and Florida State before beating Kansas.
Four of their victories have come by double digits, an amazing feat considering VCU's longshot status. The Rams' only close game of the tourney was their 72-71 overtime win against the Seminoles in the Sweet 16.
Sunday's contest never came down to a final shot, though, as VCU used a dominating first half to put the Jayhawks (35-3) on their heels. Kansas -- which was trying to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2008, when it won the national title -- never recovered.
Marcus Morris finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds, while twin brother Markieff had 13 and 12 for Kansas, which had an 11-game win streak broken. Jayhawks head coach Bill Self described the result as a loss to a good team, rather than a shocking upset.
"Because seeds are so overrated, it's about matchups. And their players could play for us any day," Self said. "If we played shirts and skins today you wouldn't have much of a difference on players or how they look."
The Jayhawks scored the game's first six points and were still up after Marcus Morris sank a layup about six minutes in.
But Skeen hit a pair of three-pointers during an 11-0 run that gave VCU a 20-10 advantage. The Rams made shot after shot from beyond the arc, increasing their lead and making it clear that their shooting success wasn't short-lived.
Brandon Rozzell, who celebrated his birthday Sunday, sank three in a span of three minutes to help the Rams gain a 39-21 advantage with 3:53 left in the half.
While VCU was having great success on the offensive end, it also stifled the Jayhawks' offense. The Rams packed bodies into the lane to help keep the Morris twins in check. While the Morrises scored, they didn't dominate and were often forced into bad shots or turnovers -- Markieff had six in the first half.
The strategy also forced the Morrises' teammates to make shots, and they didn't hit many. Aside from the twins, Kansas went 2-for-13 from the floor in the frame.
"I think we wore them out. We came right at them in the offensive end. If you go back and watch the game, I think every time they shot the ball mostly somebody had a hand in their face," VCU guard Joey Rodriguez said. "Our wings did a great job of contesting shots and running their shooters off of things."
VCU, on the other hand, made nine three-pointers in the opening period and rolled into the break with a 41-27 lead.
"We didn't defend the three point line like we should have. Give credit to them, they were knocking them down. But it was a poor performance by us guarding the three," said Kansas guard Tyrel Reed. "That was basically it."
Kansas got back into the game early in the second half.
Tyshawn Taylor's layup capped a 12-0 run to cut the Jayhawks' deficit to 43-39. Taylor, who didn't score in the first half, netted six during the run.
He added a three-point play a few possessions later to bring Kansas within two, and the Big 12 champions had a chance to pull even after Markieff Morris stole the ball.
But he turned it back over to VCU, starting a critical series of possessions. Skeen made 2-of-3 free throws before a Marcus Morris turnover resulted in Darius Theus driving for a bucket and a 50-44 lead.
By the time Skeen drilled a three with 10:29 to go, the Rams' lead was up to 55-46.
VCU continued to lead down the stretch, and every time Kansas threatened to get close, the Rams scored a timely bucket. They got a few from Bradford Burgess, whose three stretched VCU's lead to nine with under four minutes left.
His layup with two minutes to go, off a quick feed from Rodriguez, made it a 65-57 game.
Markieff Morris followed with a layup, but Kansas didn't threaten the outcome as the Rams secured the win with free throws in the final minute.
The Jayhawks, meanwhile, didn't take advantage of 28 attempts from the line, making only 15.
Back in 2006, George Mason's run to the Final Four was a singular event that morphed into a modern standard for NCAA tourney underdogs. The Patriots came out of nowhere to reach the Final Four, and in following tourneys the question was, "Who will be this year's George Mason?"
After Sunday, it might be time to ask who will be the next VCU.
No. 11 seeds have reached the Final Four only three times. In addition to VCU and George Mason, Louisiana State reached the national semifinals in 1986...Since the field expanded to 64 teams, there have been only three tourneys in which no top seed reached the Final Four -- 2011, 2006, and 1980...Taylor added 14 points for Kansas...VCU, which shot only 40 percent, made 12 of its 21 successful field goals from three-point range.
- VCU: 71
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- VCU: 0
1st Half - 20:00
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