VCU Rams win A-10 championship: 'Stick together and fight'

Baldwin: 'I just had to huddle the guys up and remind them that the game wasn't over'
Rams win A-10 Championship
Posted at 6:37 PM, Mar 12, 2023

NEW YORK — Three years to the day after this tournament was cancelled in the same building in which it was played this weekend, the VCU Rams were in danger of suffering an even bigger disappointment.

They found themselves down 11 to Dayton early in the second half of their Atlantic 10 championship game with only themselves and their experience on which to rely.

"If you want to win a championship, you have to go take it" said head coach Mike Rhoades. "You can't play to lose."

That's exactly what his team did over the final 15 minutes of Sunday afternoon's contest. The Rams got 16 points from Ace Baldwin Jr. and 13 more from Jalen Deloach and Jamir Watkins while holding Dayton without a field goal for the final 10 minutes of a 68-56 VCU win that automatically punches their ticket for the NCAA tournament.

"It's awesome," gushed Rams senior forward Brandon Johns Jr. "We've been working for it since the summer. It's just great to finally see everything pay off."

"I just had to huddle the guys up and remind them that the game wasn't over," added Baldwin who was named to the A-10 all-tournament team. "Stick together and fight the adversity."

Dayton was led by DaRon Holmes II who had 28 points and 16 rebounds and was named the tournament MVP. But the Flyers shot just 32% for the game under increasing defensive pressure from a VCU team that wasn't going to let another opportunity pass them by.

"The mindset I want our guys to have is if you want something in life or in basketball, you've got to go get it," Rhoades added. "If it doesn't go your way, you can live with yourself."

Sunday went the Rams way for just the second time in 7 A-10 title game appearances. This is the first time VCU has paired a regular season title with a tournament crown going back to their CAA days. They also ensure that, after Richmond's win last year, the A-10 trophy will stay in the RVA for another year.

VCU will be a No. 12 seed in the 2023 NCAA tournament. The Rams will take on No. 5 seed St. Mary’s on Friday in Albany, New York.