Brooklyn, NY (Sports Network) - Kwamain Mitchell scored 19 points on a near-
flawless shooting performance, and 16th-ranked Saint Louis captured its first
conference tournament title in 13 years with a 62-56 verdict over No. 25 VCU
in the Atlantic 10 Championship.
Mitchell made good on 7-of-9 field goal attempts -- including 3-of-4 from 3-
point range -- and the Billikens overcame 18 turnovers against the Rams'
trademark pressure with a terrific defensive display of their own.
Saint Louis (27-6) limited VCU to a 33.9 success rate from the floor en route
to securing the A-10's automatic bid, and will enter the NCAA Tournament with
15 victories in its last 16 games during what's been a dramatic season for the
The top-seeded Billikens, who last claimed a league tourney crown while in
Conference USA in 2000, are now 24-3 since Rick Majerus -- the school's head
coach for the previous five seasons -- died on Dec. 1.
Dwayne Evans put up 16 points and eight rebounds to help Saint Louis prevail.
Treveon Graham accumulated 20 points and 12 rebounds for second-seeded VCU
(26-8), with Juvonte Reddic finishing with 15 points and eight boards in
The Rams, the nation's leader in steals per game, lost for the first time in
27 outings this season when inducing 15 turnovers or more.
In a game billed as a matchup between two of the nation's premier stop units,
each lived up to its reputation over portions of the opening half.
After registering the contest's initial basket, VCU missed eight straight
shots and committed six turnovers against the Billikens' tight defense over a
stretch of more than six minutes, with Saint Louis reeling off 11 straight
points to gain the early upper hand.
However, the Rams answered with a 10-1 run -- getting eight off those points
off Saint Louis miscues -- to knot the score at 12-12 just past the midway
stage of the first half.
VCU's offense again went cold before the conclusion of the period, however,
and the Billikens capitalized with a 10-2 burst capped by consecutive treys by
Mitchell to claim a 28-19 advantage a minute prior to intermission.
A Briante Weber jumper with 24 seconds left in the half ended a 5 1/2-minute
scoreless drought for the Rams, who shot just 29.6 percent for the stanza and
trailed 29-21 at the break.
Evans' 3-point play less than two minutes into the second half extended Saint
Louis' lead to 34-23, but the outcome was far from sealed by that time.
Down by 13 with under 11 1/2 minutes to go, the Rams turned up their defensive
pressure to get back in it.
VCU created four turnovers during a 13-1 tear that Graham ignited with a
basket from beyond the arc, with the last of the takeaways producing an
uncontested dunk by Reddic that pulled the Rams within 46-45 with 8:52
After the teams traded 3-point buckets over the next two minutes, the
Billikens' Cody Ellis made a key jumper and Mitchell buried a momentum-
changing triple shortly after that to put Saint Louis up 54-48 with 4:50 left
The Rams scored the next three points to cut the deficit to three, but Rob
Brandenberg missed a wide-open trey attempt for VCU with 2:43 left. On the
ensuing possession, Evans kicked the ball out to Ellis for another 3-point
make that proved quite damaging to the Rams' comeback hopes.
VCU got as close as four points down in the final stages, but Saint Louis held
on by hitting 5-of-6 foul shots during the stretch run.
Troy Daniels, VCU's third leading scorer at 12.5 points per game, did not
record a point while going 0-for-5 from the field and playing just 17 minutes
due to foul trouble ... Saint Louis now has five wins against top-25 foes this
season, including a 76-62 home decision over then-No. 24 VCU on Feb. 19 ...
The Billikens entered the contest just 1-4 all-time in conference tournament
finals, with Sunday's matchup their first as an A-10 member ... The Rams
reached the CAA championship game in each of the previous two seasons,
defeating Drexel last year and falling to Old Dominion in 2011.
The Sports Network