VCU 68, Saint Louis 56

BY foxsports • March 30, 2010

Joey Rodriguez scored 14 straight points during a decisive second-half surge to lead Virginia Commonwealth past Saint Louis 68-56 on Monday night in the first game of the championship series of the College Basketball Invitational.

``Joey can get it going,'' said Ram coach Shaka Smart. ``The thing that makes him dangerous - he led the CAA in assists. He's a rhythm shooter and came off ball screens into the lane.''

Saint Louis rallied to cut the deficit to 3 points with 14:30 left, but Rodriguez took over during a 14-4 run that gave the Rams a 55-42 lead with 11:55 to go. Rodriguez hit three 3-pointers during the burst, including one that turned into a four-point play.

``They got the game to three (points),'' said Rodriguez, ``and I tried to make plays for my team.''

Rodriguez finished with a game-high 22 points and six assists, and Larry Sanders added 20 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks for the Rams (26-9), who led by as many as 20.

``We didn't match their intensity level,'' Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus said. ``We got stretched out (on defense). We're not used to rotational changing.''

Willie Reed scored 11 points, and Kwamain Mitchell and Cody Ellis added 10 apiece for the Billikins (23-12).

The teams will play Game 2 of the best-of-three series in St. Louis on Wednesday.

Sanders and Brandon Rozzell each had four points during a 13-4 run over the final 4:02 of the first half to give the Rams a 36-25 lead at halftime.

``The coaches told me to go out and be aggressive,'' said Sanders. ``I think (my play) has a huge effect on the game and my teammates. I've never finished the season with a win.''

Smart was happy with his team's play.

``Most of the game, we were able to get the tempo at our pace,'' he said. ``We got our hands on a lot of basketballs tonight.''

Sanders scored 14 points in the first half.

``Larry was really good tonight,'' Smart said. ``He set the tone for the game.''

The Billikins were ahead 13-12 with 7:55 left in the half before the Rams hit 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions for a 21-15 lead.

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