RICHMOND, Va. – Earlier this week CBS Sports released a chart that showed that the VCU men's basketball team had the pleasure of being the team that traveled the farthest for its game in the 2012 NCAA Tournament Round of 64, somewhere in the nature of 2,700 miles.
On Thursday night, the Rams decided to make the trip worth it with a thrilling 62-59 upset of fifth-seeded Wichita State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. With the victory, VCU set a single-season school record for wins with 29.
"It was a great game. I thought coming into the game that Wichita State had one of the best teams in the country, and I still feel that way," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "They played really, really well. But our guys hung in there and we certainly didn't play perfect basketball in the second half, but they really showed a high level of resolve."
Down 59-57 with two minutes left, senior Bradford Burgess drilled a three-pointer from the corner and junior Darius Theus made yet another big time play with a runner in the lane to cap off yet another NCAA Tournament upset for the Black & Gold.
"We talked about how we really needed to play with a lot of resolve and battle all night, even after Wichita State took the lead, our guys didn't put our heads down, they just kept fighting," Smart said. "And then these guys on this stage with me [Darius, Bradford and Troy Daniels] made some huge plays down the stretch, which turned out to be the difference in the game."
Burgess, who was making his 145th consecutive start, led all scorers with 16 points on the night. In addition, he grabbed five rebounds, four assists and picked up two steals. Theus and Daniels each finished with 10 points apiece, with Daniels tying a single-season school record with 92 treys on the season.
"It really feels great and it's a testament to the summer and offseason that I had with my teammates and coaches. They really pushed me to get better," Daniels said. "We don't stop working here, we're never satisfied."
Both defenses were on display early with the teams really scrapping for points and the Rams leading 8-7 with 14:09 showing on the first half clock. VCU quickly turned up the heat, forcing back-to-back turnovers and converting with layups from Theus and freshman Treveon Graham to take a five-point lead.
Wichita State showed why they were the 18th-ranked team in the country with an 11-0 run that gave the Shockers a 24-21 lead with 5:38 left in the first stanza.
VCU's resolve allowed them to bounce right back led by Burgess who scored nine of the Rams in a 13-1 run that closed out the first half and sent the Black & Gold into the break with a 34-25 cushion.
"We knew that Wichita State was going to make some runs, we just had to stick with our plan and battle through adversity," Burgess said.
The Shockers would slowly chip away at the lead during the second half and got it down to one, 54-53, with 5:41 to play, but Daniels bombed home his 92nd trey of the year to push the lead back to four. That's when Joe Ragland and Toure Murry answered with three-pointers of their own to give Wichita State a 59-57 lead and set up the final heroics by Burgess and Theus.
"Our coaches do an unbelievable job of keeping us focused on what we need to do to be successful, not just before the game, but during the game," Theus said. "I love this group of guys."
VCU will now move on to face the winner of fourth-seeded Indiana and 13th-seeded New Mexico State, which was being played right after the Rams' win over Wichita State. Game time on Saturday has yet to be determined.