From the get-go VCU looked like the tournament tested team that they are while OSU looked timid. The Rams were aggressive and were constantly forcing the issue and it did lead them to some early fouls which helped buoy a stagnant early game offense from the Beavers.
OSU could not keep the Rams out of the paint, allowing them to create plenty of good looks especially from deep. The Rams were limited by their shooting though as they were unable to hit their mostly open threes despite turning the Beaver zone into pretzels. While this was going they were also compressing the Beaver offense with their trapping scheme.
VCU offered a trapping look and it befuddled the Beaver ballhandlers. It didn't result in many turnovers but good gravy did it knock the Beavers out of their offense. When the offense was successful it was not on the back of the team flow, it was an individual effort hitting a contested look or the rare win off of the dribble. Even on some successful forays into the paint the Rams had great hustle to recover and contest/block the shot.
Despite the early advantage going over to VCU the score stayed relatively even. Drew Eubanks was a large part of it as his presence was enough to force some hesitation in the lane, although the Rams were also able to finish around/through him as well. He was called for an illegal screen and was forced to leave the game with two fouls. That took away a presence inside on both ends. That hurt especially on defense where the guards of the Rams were carving up the Beaver defense like a turkey dinner.
With all those made shots it allowed the VCU defense to get set and make things even tougher on an already stagnant Beaver offense. Oregon State also started fouling on drives, allowing more easy points. That took it all the way to halftime with the Rams continuing to grind away until they built up an 8 point lead at the half 36-28.
Upon the return to the court both teams came out ready to run. The Oregon State offense was a tick better, looking to run through more Gary Payton II in the post and otherwise confused and fragmented offense. VCU stayed pretty consistent on offense, moving the ball effectively to force the Beavers into poor rotations and they took advantage to keep the lead at 8 all the way to the U-12 timeout.
JeQuan Lewis of the Rams was especially problematic as his speed was getting him around most perimeter defenders. The rebounding allowed VCU to keep getting chances as well even on stops.
After the 12 minute timeout the Beavers finally went on a run, sparked by Derrick Bruce. He drilled a three to bring it within five. After a pair of missed Rams free throws Bruce again hit from deep to bring the game within two. The defense came up big and GPII came up big with a steal and then converted in transition to tie the game.
The run continued with a GPII dunk and the Beavers finally took the lead at 51-49 with ten minutes left in the game.
Momentum was rolling the Beavers way when Payton got a one and one off of a loose ball foul, but a miss there hurt the Beavers despite solid defense on the next possession. Eubanks was stuffed at the rim and it led to a fast break for the Rams. They converted that chance for a three and retook the lead. Bruce was fouled with a chance to retake the lead but literally came up short on the shot leaving it tied at 52-52.
After that momentum swayed back to VCU they were able to hit from deep again, despite their game long struggle and Mo Alie-Cox put them up 6 after an and-1. Alie-Cox had been terrific all game as well, extremely active and great on finishing on the pick and roll. The ball kept rolling VCU's way as they finally found their three point stroke.
"Those offensive rebounds and-ones really demolished our momentum," Payton said. "They got about two or three of them in a row, and that just hurt us. We tried to fight back, but every time we started making a run, an offensive foul or and-one."
To their credit OSU kept scrapping but they were outplayed and outexecuted almost all game. Oregon State had a good run in them, but that was it, and the better team today advanced on in the tournament. The game ended 75-67, and the season comes to a close for the Beavers, after a 19-13 run that got them to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 26 years.
"Obviously a disappointing loss," Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. "We'd like to have advanced, but I'm really proud of the fight our guys showed. We got down double figures the first half, then came back in the second half and got in the lead. But it was short lived. Give a lot of credit, obviously, to Virginia Commonwealth. Their physicality, I think, won out in the end."
Heck of a roller coaster ride season and it has to be a success to break the streak. We saw buzzer-beaters, brutal beatdowns, and just about everything in between. Tres Tinkle's foot injury induced absence certainly hurt today. We saw a group of underclassmen and upperclassmen grow together. We saw guys make mistakes and atone for them as they should. We watched a team and program we can finally take pride in.
A hard loss, but every season has to end for all but one team. Take pride in this team for representing this school in proper fashion. Go Beavs and let's dance again next year.