VCU upsets Villanova in first round of NIT

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 21 Mar, 2024 at 06:30 AM

Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Bamisile had a team-high 17 points and Max Shulga scored key late-game baskets to help visiting VCU upset top-seeded Villanova 70-61 in the opening round of the NIT on Wednesday.

The Rams (22-13) advance to play South Florida in the second round on Sunday.

Eric Dixon paced the Wildcats (18-16) with 21 points, 13 rebounds and three steals. TJ Bamba had 12 points, and Mark Armstrong added 10 points and five assists, though he committed four turnovers.

There were 17 lead changes during the closely-contested game, including 12 in the second half.

VCU took the lead for good thanks to an 8-0 run sparked by a pair of Toibu Lawal free throws with 4:40 left in the game. Shulga followed up with a crucial 3-pointer with 2:56 left that broke a cold spell for the Rams, who went five minutes without a made field goal.

Shulga topped the run with a pair of free throws to make it 66-58 with 1:49 remaining. The eight-point margin was the largest lead by either team until the final minute of the game.

Shulga finished with 10 points, six assists and four turnovers. Zeb Jackson had eight points, four rebounds and four assists. VCU shot 23-for-54 overall (42.6 percent) and 11-for-30 (36.7 percent) from beyond the arc.

Dixon gave the Wildcats a chance to stay in the game, when he went on a personal 8-0 run before VCU pulled in front for good.

VCU went on a 10-0 run to take a 56-49 lead with 7:59 remaining before Dixon responded with a series of free throws and back-to-back layups in traffic to give Villanova a 57-56 lead with 5:35 left.

That would be the last time Villanova was on top.

The Wildcats trailed 31-30 at the half.

Overall, Villanova shot 21-for-51 (41.2 percent) and 6-for-23 (26.1 percent) from 3-point range. They also turned the ball over 13 times, which led to 16 VCU points.

--Field Level Media