Virginia Commonwealth was out to prove last season’s Final Four run was not a one-year blip, but only the beginning of a new chapter in Rams basketball.
But with the 12th-seeded Rams on the precipice of adding to their March legend, Indiana used an inspired late run to add its storied history.
Despite trailing for nearly all of the second half, the Hoosiers stormed back in the final five minutes and Will Sheehey nailed a baseline jumper with 11 seconds left to give Indiana a 63-61 win.
The win sends the Hoosiers through to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002.
With timely perimeter shots and relentless defense, the Rams pushed a one-point halftime lead to a 59-53 advantage with 6 minutes, 40 seconds remaining. But VCU went ice cold the rest of the way, scoring only four points in the final 12 minutes of the game.
Indiana went inside repeatedly with freshman Cody Zeller, who scored five straight points to pull the Hoosiers within three.
After Bradford Burgess missed a pair of free throws, former DeMatha star Victor Oladipo drove to the rim for a layup and foul and made the ensuing free throw to tie the game with 46 seconds remaining. Troy Daniels missed a three-pointer on VCU’s ensuing possession and Oladipo drove the length of the floor. Darius Theus blocked Oladipo’s shot attempt, but the ball landed in Sheehey’s hands for a wide open baseline jumper.
Rob Bradenberg had a clean look at a potential game-winning three-pointer with four seconds left, but it clanged off the rim to send VCU back to Richmond. Burgess — the lone returning starter from VCU’s Final Four team — scored 15 points to lead the Rams who were trying to become the first team seeded 11th or lower to reach consecutive Sweet 16s.
Zeller had 16 points and 13 rebounds and Christian Watford added 16 points for the Hoosiers, whose last Sweet 16 appearance came on their way to the 2002 national title game.
Box score: Indiana 63, VCU 61
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