Washington, D.C. - One year ago, VCU and Rhode Island met for the A-10 title. And while Friday's meeting was for a trip to the conference semifinals, it did have a certain championship feel.
Jeff Dowtin led four Rhode Island players in double figures with 18, as they advance after a 76-67 win. Justin Tillman had a game high 23 points and 15 rebounds for VCU, who played his final A-10 tournament game in a Rams uniform.
"For us to have a chance to win, we had to throw it right back at them,"VCU Head Coach Mike Rhoades said. "We made some toughness plays, we made some competitive plays that gave us an opportunity down the stretch but it wasn't enough."
At the 10:23 mark of the second half, Tillman had to leave the game after he picked up his fourth foul. They would tie the game at 55 on a Johnny Williams steal and lay-up but over the next nine plus minutes, VCU would make only two field goals.
"They [Rhode Island] have done that to a lot of teams the last two years for sure and they did it to us in that stretch and that got them their lead."
With an 18-15 record, the odds of VCU reaching their eighth straight NCAA tournament are not good but they do feel they have one more game left, whether it's the NIT or CBI postseason tournaments.
"I love playing basketball," VCU senior guard Johnny Williams said. "I definitely want to keep playing as long as I can especially with these guys."