NEW YORK (AP) — Mo Alie-Cox muscled his way to 18 points inside and Treveon Graham provided the pop from the outside with 18 more, leading VCU past No. 24 Davidson 93-73 on Saturday and into the Atlantic 10 tournament championship game for the third straight season.
The fifth-seeded Rams (25-9) got some payback for a blowout loss at Davidson last week, snapping top-seeded Wildcats’ 10-game winning streak, with their best performance since losing point guard Briante Weber to a knee injury six weeks ago.
A-10 player of the year Tyler Kalinoski scored 19 points a day after hitting a buzzer-beater that kept Davidson (24-7) from getting upset in its Atlantic 10 tournament debut. The conference newcomers won the regular-season title and are hoping that’s enough to get them an NCAA at-large bid
VCU is on its way to the NCAAs no matter what happens against either Dayton or Rhode Island on Sunday. VCU will be looking for its first A-10 tournament title after losing the last two finals.
The 255-pound Alie-Cox was powerful in the paint, collecting seven offensive rebounds, and most of the Rams’ 16 second-chance points before fouling out with 2:13 left. By that point he had done plenty of damage and the Rams fans at Barclays Center happily sent him off to a big ovation.
Graham was Mr. Outside, going 4 for 4 from 3-point range.
VCU was playing its 12th game without Weber, who went down on Jan. 31. Without him playing, that is. The senior was on the Rams’ bench, his right leg in a huge black brace, sitting next to the assistant coaches or leaning up against the scorer’s table during timeouts. He lifted himself up to cheer on his teammates, pumping fists, waving a yellow VCU towel and yelling encouragement.
Weber was on pace to set the NCAA career steals record and set the tone for VCU’s havoc defense. The Rams went 5-5 to end the regular season without him, including an 82-55 loss at Davidson.
The Rams said after VCU beat rival Richmond in the quarterfinals Friday that playing a third straight day would be no problem. They said the memory of that rout in North Carolina would put life in the Rams’ legs.
VCU surged in the final 12 minutes of the first half and was up by 22 with 15:19 left in the second.
Davidson was not done.
The Wildcats went on a 19-2 run that included three 3s from Kalinoski to trim the lead to 57-52 with 10:22 left.
It turned out to be Davidson’s last big push. VCU rattled off the next 10 points, highlighted by a slam from Cox and a 3 from Graham to make it 64-52 with 7:57 left.
Davidson had come from nine down in the final five minutes to beat La Salle on Friday, but the Rams pulled away.
The Wildcats raced out to a 16-4 lead in the first half. An alley-oop slam by Jordan Barham from Kalinoski was the highlight. After falling behind by 18 in the first half of their first game of the tournament, the Wildcats looked like their usual run-and-gun selves.
The Rams responded the way they usually do, cranking up the pressure, deflecting passes, making steals and hitting the offensive boards. And then the shots started to fall for the Rams. The worst-shooting team in the A-10 made five straight 3-pointers in on stretch, two in a row by Graham, and flipped the score by 26 points.
A three-point play by Alie-Cox gave VCU a 44-28 lead at the break
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