Malcolm Armstead drilled a 20-footer with 3.8 seconds left to give Wichita State a two-point lead, and Juvonte Reddic missed the first of two free throws with .5 seconds remaining as the Shockers claimed a 53-51 victory over Virginia Commonwealth at the Siegel Center on Tuesday night.
After Darius Theus tied the game with a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left, the Shockers spread the floor with Armstead operating one on one against Briante Weber.
Armstead took a couple of dribbles, pulled up as Weber backed off and was true from the top of the key.
VCU got the ball to Reddic, who drove down the middle and was fouled by Carl Hall as he put up a layup. Reddic’s first free throw rimmed out. He intentionally missed the second, but the ball didn’t hit the rim, giving the ball to Wichita State.
Free throws were a bugaboo for the Rams all evening in front of the 20th consecutive sellout crowd. VCU finished 12 of 23. It was 17 of 49 from the floor.
Reddic carried the Rams with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Theus added 15 points.
VCU guard Troy Daniels came down hard on his right ankle after grabbing a long rebound with 4:50 left. Clutching the ankle in pain and unable to bear weight, he had to be helped to the locker room.
The Rams beat the Shockers 68-67 at Wichita State in the 2011 season on Joey Rodriguez’s two free throws with 0.8 seconds left. Last year in the second round of the NCAA tournament, No. 12 seed VCU beat fifth-seeded Wichita State 62-59.
This is a new cast for Wichita State. Picked to finish fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Shockers are replacing their top five scorers.
This team applied the brakes to VCU’s high-speed machine. The Shockers used man pressure in the backcourt to force the Rams into a slower pace. They were quick and effective in their halfcourt defense, stripping VCU ballhandlers on several occasions and coming up with 15 turnovers.
Wichita State had 13 turnovers, but it was not bothered by the Rams’ full-court pressure. That kept VCU from quick strikes.
Trailing 28-24 at halftime, VCU went on a 9-0 run fueled by Reddic and Wichita State turnovers.
Reddic made a driving shot. After the Shockers turned the ball over for one of the few times against the press, Reddic hit a 15-foot jumper. Another turnover preceded D.J. Haley’s hook shot.
One more Wichita State turnover led to Theus’ 3-pointer and a 33-28 VCU lead.
The Shockers responded with a 9-1 spurt to retake the lead, and the game went back in forth from there before Wichita State took some control late.
Cleanthony Early had 13 points, Hall 12 and Armstead 11.