SKEEN HITS GAME-WINNER TO LEAD RAMS PAST DREXEL, 62-60
RICHMOND, Va. – During a road trip to Philadelphia a few weeks ago, a few members of the Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball travel party took a jog to the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum to see the statue that commemorates the "Rocky" movie series.
The Black & Gold channeled their inner-"Rocky" and used a huge game from senior Jamie Skeen to pick up a thrilling 62-60 victory over fifth-seeded Drexel in the quarterfinals of the 2011 CAA Basketball Championship.
Skeen made a great move around the Dragons' Yannnick Formbor and connected on a lay-up as time-expired to give VCU the victory and set up a CAA Semi-Finals date with top-seeded and nationally-ranked George Mason on Sunday afternoon.
"We knew we would have to fight and claw for 40 minutes and that's exactly what we did," Head Coach Shaka Smart said. "Thanks to these two guys sitting up here with me [Skeen and Burgess], we were able to come away with the win and advance to tomorrow."
Skeen finished with a game-high 24 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while grabbing eight rebounds and drilling a season-high 11 free-throws. Junior Bradford Burgess was the other Ram in double-digits with 15 points, while also picking up three steals and two rebounds.
"The month of February was behind us as soon as we started practice on Tuesday," Skeen said. "Everybody is 0-0 when this tournament starts so that's all we were focused on. Now we get a shot to make up for what happened last time against Mason."
It looked like VCU would be able to squeak out a narrow victory as it held a five-point lead with just over a minute remaining, but two long three-pointers by Drexel's Chris Fouch tied the game at 60-60 with 18 seconds remaining and set up Skeen's heroics.
After taking a great post feed from classmate Ed Nixon, Skeen faked right and went left and dropped a shot right off the glass to give the Rams the dramatic win.
"The play was designed for me and I honestly didn't know exactly how much time was on the clock. I knew what move I had to make and I'm just glad I got it off with just enough time," Skeen said.
It was a physical, slow-moving first-half with 24 fouls called, 25 free-throw attempts and just 16 field-goals made between the two teams as the halftime score had the teams tied up at 23-23.
VCU came out of the break aggressive and led by as many as seven after senior Brandon Rozzell drilled a three-pointer from the right side to grab a 39-32 advantage with 13:02 to play.
Like they did all game, Drexel would fight back and eventually get within one after Dartaye Ruffin hit back-to-back free-throws with 3:23 remaining.
A huge jumper by senior Joey Rodriguez pushed the Rams' lead to five at 57-52 with 1:07 to play, but that's when Fouch delivered his three-pointers, only to set-up Skeen's dramatics.
"That's a game you hate for anyone to lose," Drexel Head Coach Bruiser Flint said. "When you have guys diving for every loose ball and fighting for every rebound, it makes a great game. That's exactly what tonight was."
Fouch finished with a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds for the Dragons, while Givens finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
VCU will now take on the top-seeded Patriots of George Mason in the CAA Semi-Finals at 12 p.m. tomorrow at the Richmond Coliseum.