No. 16 VCU tops Saint Louis on last-second shot for 11th straight win
The winning play was simple: Get the ball to Treveon Graham and step aside.
Graham threw the inbounds pass, got it right back and then drove the distance for a tiebreaking layup with 0.9 seconds left, and No. 16 Virginia Commonwealth held off Saint Louis 63-61 on Friday night for its 11th consecutive victory.
"I always want the ball in those types of situations," Graham said. "I’m either going to make a shot or find my teammates."
Graham didn’t worry about beating the clock, just about beating the defense to the rim. He missed most of the practice week with an ankle injury but played 32 minutes.
"Tre’s a terrific player and he made a big-time play," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "When he got the ball back you could just see the look in his eye."
Saint Louis knew what was coming, and couldn’t do anything about it.
"Obviously not good defense if you give up a layup," coach Jim Crews said. "So that was misplayed by us, but Graham’s a really good player."
Graham had 21 points and Briante Weber scored 15 for VCU (16-3, 6-0 Atlantic 10). Graham twice missed a pair at the line in the second half, helping the Billikens (9-10, 1-5) stay close.
"We could have been in a little better position," Smart said. "The rest of our team shot much better from the foul line, and he obviously made the shot he had to make."
The Rams are 6-0 in conference play for the first time since 2006-07, when the school was in the Colonial Athletic Association. Saint Louis has lost six of seven and is 0-2 against ranked foes, but fared much better than early December when it lost by 29 at Wichita State.
"I think we moved it down another mile marker, so that’s good," Crews said. "We’re not real pleased we got beat at all. Not whatsoever. Not happy about that."
Milik Yarbrough had 15 points and six rebounds for Saint Louis. Austin McBroom scored 12, the last two on a hanging shot in the lane for a 60-58 lead with 39 seconds to go. Marcus Bartley added eight points and seven rebounds.
Ash Yacoubou made the second of two free throws to tie it at 61 with 7 seconds to go after Jordan Burgess’ first 3-pointer of the game put the Rams up with 19.6 seconds left.
"Coach always says if you’re a shooter, just keep shooting," Burgess said. "My teammates had faith in me."
Saint Louis got two chances to break the tie, the last with 0.2 seconds to go, but couldn’t get off a shot.
The Rams won the first 10 games in their streak by an average of nearly 14 points per game.
VCU leads an exceptionally tight series 4-3, outscoring Saint Louis by just 349-340, and had lost the last two in St. Louis against teams that won consecutive A-10 titles. Crews is rebuilding with five new starters.
VCU: Weber had two steals, passing Temple’s Pepe Sanchez (1996-00) for third place on the Division I career list. Weber has 366 steals and needs 20 more to become the career leader. Ahead are two Providence players — Eric Murdock had 376 from 1997-01 and John Linehan had 385 from 1998-02.
Saint Louis: Yarbrough had just two points in the first half. His dunk on a putback over a handful of players was the most impressive play by either side, cutting the deficit to four with 4:05 to go.
VCU: The next two games are at home, against George Washington on Tuesday and Richmond on Friday.
Saint Louis: At George Mason on Thursday.