Portland, OR (WWBT)- VCU is familiar with the underdog role, and is once again embracing it for the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Thursday night saw the 12th seeded Rams face 5th seed Wichita State in South Region action, and it turned out to be a feeling that has become familiar to Shaka Smart and VCU fans.
VCU opened up a double-digit lead and hit key shots in the final minutes to hold off Wichita State, 62-59. The Rams opened up a ten point lead in the first half and held a 34-25 advantage at the break. They extended that lead to 13 early in the second, but the Shockers chipped away. Toure' Murry drained a three for Wichita State with 2:03 remaining in the game, putting the Shockers in front, 59-57, but the Rams answered right back. Bradford Burgess hit a three of his own, his only bucket of the second half, to give VCU the lead back, 60-59, with 1:29 to play. After a defensive stop, Darius Theus connected on a runner in the lane that extended the Rams' lead to 62-59 with 0:20 left in the game. Wichita State would have a final shot, but Garrett Stutz's three point attempt was off the mark, sealing the win for the Rams and sending them onto the second round.
Burgess led the Rams with 16 points, while Theus and Troy Daniels added ten. Joe Ragland paced the Shockers with 15 points. Stutz, who entered the game as Wichita State's leading scorer, was held to just four points on the night.
Shaka Smart now improves to 6-1 in NCAA Tournament games as the head coach at VCU. The Rams move on to face Indiana in the second round on Saturday in Portland. The Hoosiers are the fourth seed in the South Region and topped New Mexico State on Thursday night, 79-66. A time has yet to be determined for that match-up.