Virginia Commonwealth 82,

American 76

American blew a 17-point first-half lead to lose 82-76 in overtime to Virginia Commonwealth in a first-round Preseason National Invitation Tournament game Monday night at Siegel Center. Andre Ingram scored a career-high 38 points to lead the Eagles.

The Rams will play No. 2 Wake Forest on Thursday.

VCU went ahead for the first time when B.A. Walker made a layup with 40 seconds remaining to put the Rams up 63-62. American answered with a layup by Jason Thomas. Nick George (Montrose Christian), who went scoreless in the first half, countered with a three-pointer with nine seconds to go. Ingram made a jump shot with five seconds left to send the game into overtime.

The Eagles had nothing left. George and Walker combined to score 14 of the Rams' 16 overtime points.

"They just wore us down," American Coach Jeff Jones said.

Ingram was playing in the city where he led Highland Springs High to a state championship two years ago. Ingram, the Patriot League preseason player of the year, made his first four shots, including 3 of 3 from behind the arc. By halftime, he had 18 of the Eagles' 36 points. He finished 12 of 18 from the field, including 6 of 7 from three-point range.

"Definitely it was extra motivation," Ingram said of returning to Richmond. "There's nothing like coming back home."

American, which controlled the first half, wilted under the Rams' relentless pressure defense after halftime. The Eagles had 20 turnovers.

"We had too many mental mistakes," Ingram said. "When things got tough toward the end, we kind of lost our composure."

VCU showed why it is so tough at home, where it has lost only 11 times in the past six seasons. After trailing 36-24 at halftime, the Rams went on an 18-8 run to cut the Eagles' lead to 44-42 with 11 minutes 39 seconds remaining.

George, who missed all five of his shots in the first half, made a jump shot to tie the score at 44 with 10:13 to play. He finished with a career-high 24 points. Less than a minute later, Ingram made a three-point basket to put American ahead.

The teams traded baskets until Alexander Harper made perhaps the defensive play of the game. Harper ripped the ball out of point guard Linas Likavicius's hands, then raced down the court and flipped the ball toward the basket. The ball fell through the net and Likavicius was called for the foul. Harper converted the three-point play and the Rams trailed by one with just more than a minute remaining in regulation.

On American's next possession, Ingram's bad pass led to a turnover and a layup by Walker, which gave the Rams the lead.

Likavicius had an uneven debut at point guard, finishing with three assists and four turnovers. Likavicius, who started at shooting guard last season, is still learning the position but an ankle injury has limited his practice time. "Given those set of circumstances, he did what he could," Jones said. "I guess all and all, Linas was solid, but we need more."