VCU rolls on, beats Seminoles in OT
Cinderella Rams to face Kansas in regional final on Sunday
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Virginia Commonwealth is aiming to make it from the First Four to the Final Four.
Along the way, they keep demonstrating just how much they do belong in the NCAA tournament.
Bradford Burgess made a layup off an inbounds pass with 7.1 seconds left and Rob Brandenburg blocked a shot at the buzzer, giving VCU a 72-71 victory against Florida State in overtime in a Southwest Region semifinal Friday night.
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In the first NCAA tournament game between teams seeded 10 and 11, the lower seeded Rams blew a nine-point lead by scoring only three points in the final 7:37 of regulation. They never trailed by more than four, but found themselves down 71-70 when Burgess scored the kind of basket that will live in NCAA tournament lore.
On an inbounds play with 7.9 seconds left, Joey Rodriguez threw a nifty bounce pass between two Florida State defenders. Burgess caught it in the lane and went up before the defenders could recover. He banked it in, just to be safe.
"I had been messing up -- my layups were getting blocked," Burgess said. "I wasn't going to the hole strong enough, and I said if I got the chance I wanted to win the game for the team."
On Florida State's final possession, Derwin Kitchen drove the baseline and passed it outside. The shot may have been too late, but Brandenburg avoided any controversy by swatting it, sending the Rams (27-11) into the final eight for the first time.
Since being told they lucked their way into a play-in game for the 11th seed, all VCU has done is knock out high-profile programs from the Pac-10 (Southern Cal), Big East (Georgetown), Big Ten (Purdue) and now the ACC. Those were all blowouts -- this one was as tight as they come.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas was among several commentators who declared the Rams unfit for the tournament, and second-year coach Shaka Smart keeps stoking his team by reminding them of everyone else who said they didn't belong, too.
It shouldn't be a problem finding folks writing them off for their next game. The Rams face top-seeded Kansas on Sunday with a spot in the Final Four on the line. The Jayhawks advanced with a 77-57 rout over Richmond; they are the only No. 1 seed left in the tournament.
Kitchen scored 23 points to lead Florida State (23-11), which hadn't been this far since 1993.
Chris Singleton -- FSU's regular-season leader in scoring, rebounds and steals, and the ACC defensive player of the year by league coaches -- almost saved it. He made a tying 3-pointer with 45 seconds left in regulation and a go-ahead layup across the baseline with 29.2 seconds left in overtime. He finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, easily his best in three tournament games after missing five weeks with a broken and surgically repaired foot.
Burgess led VCU as he's done all tournament, scoring 26 points. He was 6 of 7 on 3-pointers. His only miss was a blocked shot in overtime.
Brandon Rozzell scored 16 points, including a series of 3-pointers during the second-half surge that put the Rams back in front -- seemingly for good, until their collapse. Jamie Skeen scored 11 points and had eight rebounds.
FSU allowed the lowest field-goal shooting percentage in the country this year, but VCU shredded that. Even with their late woes, the Rams made 45 percent of their shots and were 12 of 26 from behind the arc.
"They hit some really tough shots, shots that were heavily contested," Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Almost from the parking lot, way beyond NBA range, at least three or four of them. ... Sometimes you have to give the other team credit. Even when we contested the shots they made those 3s."
VCU's previous upsets were all by at least 13 points. This one seemed headed that way when the Rams led 62-53.
But they scored only three points the rest of regulation -- one measly free throw and a layup with 3:08 left that was their final points before overtime.
Kitchen and Michael Snaer led Florida State's rally to get close, then Singleton tied it with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. VCU's final attempt of the second half was blocked by Bernard James, giving the Seminoles one last shot. As time expired, Kitchen took a long jumper that didn't get over the front rim.
Florida State used its size and tenacious defense to grab control of the game early in the second half, but couldn't pull away. The Rams tilted the game back in their favor by realizing they weren't hitting any shots inside, so they might as well go outside.
Rozzell led a flurry of 3-pointers, and VCU rode a 14-4 run to the lead. But once the Rams started misfiring, they couldn't regain their touch.
In overtime, Snaer put FSU up with a layup, then Burgess answered with a go-ahead 3-pointer from the left corner. The Rams stretched the lead to 70-67 on a pair of free throws by Rozzell, then Kitchen made a jumper to tighten it up, setting up the final heroics.