RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Ace Baldwin stood at the free throw line with 4.7 seconds remaining in the game, VCU and Saint Louis tied at 65.
“I feel like those moments are pretty regular and I’m really built for those moments,” said Baldwin. “Not to be all cocky or anything, I’m just saying.”
The freshman point guard had proven himself correct about 15 minutes prior to that comment, knocking down two clutch free throws to power the Rams past the Billikens at the Siegel Center on Tuesday night.
The free throws, and the last second heave by Javonte Perkins that was off the mark, capped off a thrilling contest that lived up to its billing. It was a game that featured 14 ties and 18 lead changes as the two NCAA Tournament hopefuls battled for a big win and to potentially keep their respective bubbles from bursting.
VCU went on a run in the second half to open up a 39-31 lead. Saint Louis responded with a 13-0 surge of its own to pull ahead, 44-39, with 14:37 to play. A three-pointer by Vince Williams and a Baldwin bucket pulled the Rams back even and from there neither team led by more than three points over the final 13 minutes.
Jordan Goodwin’s jumper with 1:07 remaining gave SLU a 65-63 lead, but two Baldwin free throws tied the game up, setting up the thrilling final sequence. Hason Ward blocked a Goodwin three-point attempt, with Williams pulling down the possession. VCU looked to set up a play with ten seconds remaining and Baldwin attacked the rim, but a foul was called on Saint Louis’s Yuri Collins with 4.7 seconds left.
The Billikens called a timeout prior to each of Baldwin’s final foul shots, but the freshman stood poised and sank both free throws.
What made the win more impressive was that the Rams conquered SLU without the services of their best player. Bones Hyland sat out the contest with a sprained foot, but was on the bench cheering his teammates on. The enthusiastic Hyland looked like he was moving around well on his feet, did not wear a boot on his foot, nor did he have it heavily wrapped. Mike Rhoades said after the game that the sophomore guard could be good to go for Saturday’s contest at Davidson with a couple good days of rehab.
Williams paced the Rams with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Baldwin scored a career-high 15 points and dished out seven assists. Jamir Watkins scored nine points starting in place of the injured Hyland.
VCU only committed seven turnovers on the night, while forcing 15 from the Billikens.
The Rams improve to 17-5, 10-3 in league play, and conclude their regular season against the Wildcats on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:00 PM.
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