- U.N. Human Rights head accuses Israel of war crimes
- CBP Commissioner: Border is ‘more secure and more safe’
- Obama dispatches researchers to border to check on National Guard
- Dutch receiving Malaysia plane bodies irked at Putin’s daughter in Holland
- Algerian airplane goes missing over Mali: ‘Emergency plan’ launched
- Colorado judge strikes voter-backed gay marriage ban, but issues stay
- Brooklyn Bridge flag-swapping suspects identified by nickname
- Christian woman in Sudan spared for apostasy flies to Italy
- Iraq: 60 dead in attack on prisoner convoy
- Marco Rubio: U.S. at social, moral crossroads
VCU’s run ends in Final Four semifinal
Shooting, rebounding woes sink Rams against Butler
Question of the Day
HOUSTON — Up the tunnel they trudged, without a word or sound. The bright lights of Reliant Stadium faded. So did noise from the celebration that raged on the court.
All Joey Rodriguez could think about were the rims. The little point guard who made Virginia Commonwealth University’s basketball team go knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep. Not with the image of balls that whirled and teased their way around the rims only to pop out.
Three weeks and five wins transformed VCU from a No. 11 seed criticized for its inclusion in the NCAA Tournament to a team that didn’t believe it would lose. The charmed run ended with a 70-62 loss to Butler in a national semifinal Saturday night.
“It was almost like it wasn’t supposed to happen,” said Rodriguez, arms red with scratches and welts from diving on the court. “It just stinks.”
All this felt incongruous to VCU, after the run where everything seemed to roll its way. Three-point surged to 43.8 percent in the previous five games and accounted for 42.9 percent of the team’s scoring. Against Butler’s physical defense, VCU managed only 8-for-22 from beyond the arc. And too many layups — coach Shaka Smart estimated six to eight — didn’t fall through.
Jamie Skeen, the senior who scored a game-high 27 points, thought about the shots that spun out. Bunnies, he called them. Little ones that could’ve made a difference. He blamed himself for for those shots, for the loss.
Then he choked up. Over two days his parents, Eric and Jackie, drove 27 hours from Charlotte, N.C. to Houston for the game. They couldn’t afford plane tickets.
“That’s nothing but love,” Skeen said.
His parents almost saw their son put VCU back in the game. With 2:32 left, Skeen sank a 3-pointer and was fouled. A free throw would’ve cut Butler’s advantage to three points. It rimmed out.
Brandon Rozzell, the senior sharpshooter who comes off the bench, believed the game turned on that free throw. Sink it and the momentum would’ve swung, Rozzell, thought. Enough to have him playing in the national championship game Monday night instead of planning to avoid the game, ESPN and anything resembling basketball highlights.
“I wish those shots that rolled and rolled around would’ve gone in,” Rozzell said. “But things happen for a reason.”
Rodriguez wondered if the end came a heartbeat earlier.
Shawn Vanzant hit a 3-pointer from the corner that pushed Butler’s lead to seven. VCU’s defense did as it was told. Get the ball out of Shelvin Mack’s hands — he delivered 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting — and deny the wings. Blitz, VCU calls it.
The play unfolded as VCU hoped. But Mack found Vanzant open in the corner. After the shot went through, Vanzant backed down the court, hold up three fingers on each hand.
Smart tried to will his team back in the game, dropping into a defensive stance, veins bulging in his neck, bouncing up and down.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- Declassified cables from Berlin Wall tell tale of drama, dare,
- Judge denies settlement motion in NFL concussion lawsuit
- Jay Gruden's long and winding road to Washington
- FENNO: Championship game provides an opportunity to listen to those who play
- FENNO: For Redskins, nonsensical is the new normal
Latest Blog Entries
The subsidies are a hit with patients who don't exist
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Hezbollah in Syria could join fight against Israel
- Obama's empty tough-talk: Gun prosecutions plummet on his watch
- Algerian airplane goes missing over Mali: 'Emergency plan' launched
- Whistleblowers flood VA with lawsuits despite apology
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- CROWLEY: The good-time president
- EDITORIAL: Poor Hillary, rock-star wannabe
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Obama says public not familiar enough with issues
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq