VCU started missing from long range, and that was the end of its surprising run to the Final Four as the Rams lost to Butler 70 to 62.
The mid-major school that sliced through five major conference teams on its way to Houston finally got slowed by one of its own.
Jamie Skeen scored 27 points but the Rams went cold from 3-point range for long stretches and struggled to keep Butler off the glass during the loss in the national semifinals on Saturday night.
"I felt like a lot of those shots were in-and-outs," point guard Joey Rodríguez said. "I almost felt like it wasn't supposed to happen or something. You know, it's just a tough feeling."
Without one of its main weapons, VCU just couldn't keep up with the experienced Bulldogs. It shot just 39.7 percent (23 for 58) from the field for the game.
"Of course it's not a once in a lifetime run. We're going to try to do this every year," said VCU coach Shaka Smart, in his second year at VCU. "It's not easy, there's no question about it. ... If we're capable of coming together as a group and playing aggressive, confident, loose basketball, and we have the right guys out there, it's certainly possible."
Just look at Butler.
Butler was an adorable story last year, a 4,200-student school playing for the national title just six miles from campus. That the Bulldogs play in the same arena where "Hoosiers" was filmed only added to the sweetness.
Although Butler has shown it has more substance than a movie sequel, consider this: that 1954 Milan team that was the basis for Hoosiers? It didn't win the title on its first trip to the Indiana state finals.
It did it the second time around.
Rodríguez, the 5-foot-10-inch floor general whose grandparents were born in Puerto Rico, was one of three players with Latino roots seeking a national title. The others were Kentucky’s Eloy Vargas, who was born in Moca in the Dominican Republic, and UConn’s Shabbazz Napier, who is also Boricua and will be in championship game.
VCU Fans Riot
Thousands of rowdy fans chanting "VCU! VCU!" streamed onto city streets Saturday after Virginia Commonwealth University's remarkable season came to an end, torching trash cans and newspaper boxes, setting off firecrackers and tossing debris at police.
Police in riot gear steadily pushed back a knot of thousands of students who had gathered in the middle of Broad Street, the busy main thoroughfare through the urban campus near downtown, and lobbed a tear gas-like substance to move students away. Many fled, some holding bandannas, surgical masks and in one instance a gas mask to their faces.
"I thought this might be appropriate tonight," said one woman who ran by with a gas mask clutched to her glittered-speckled face.
City police made six arrests and reported a "few injuries," spokesman Gene Lepley wrote in an email to The Associated Press. He described the substance used by police as "crowd dispersing chemicals."
"Fire trucks were attacked," he wrote. "Rocks, bricks and bottles were thrown at officers."
Several thousand students watched VCU's inspirational season come to a close on a huge screen at the Siegel Center as the team lost to Butler, 70-62. As the seconds ticked away, they stood and cheered on the team's improbable run to the Final Four.
"Give your players, your VCU players, some love," a speaker encouraged the crowd to loud cheers.
Fans peacefully left the athletic center, some posing with police with plastic shields and protective gear.
"We still love you Rams," shouted one group of students posing for TV cameras.
Within minutes, however, the crowd gathered around the median of Broad Street and Roman candles sputtered into the night sky, fireworks were tossed in the crowd, and plastic trash cans were set on fire within the center of the throng. Some students were held aloft. Students from rooftops and apartments looked down on the crowd, occasionally tossing rolls of toilet paper and paper cups down below. Others held their cell phones aloft to record the mayhem.
Police formed a line with their shields, moving down Broad Street in an attempt to push the students a few blocks away to Monroe Park, a small green area on the inner city campus where a postgame celebration was planned. When they didn't move, the eye-stinging chemical was used.
Hundreds of students ran, sending some stumbling to the ground, but returned when the crowd cleared. Police helicopters overhead shined spotlights on the crowd, attempting apparently to direct students to the park. Police on horseback also attempted to guide the crowd.
The rowdier elements seemed to be limited to a few hundred persistent people, with many hundreds more watching from the sidewalks, bar windows and side streets.
Every fan who was asked was thrilled by VCU's season, despite the loss.
"VCU is a winner," said Preston Dickerson, who stood at the fringe of hooting and hollering fans.
"I'm still proud of my boys, 100 percent," said Kara Webber.
"It's like we're still real proud of them," said Weston Lowe, a sophomore.
"It's a Cinderella story," his pal, Zach Donatelli, said.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a statement praising VCU's "historic run."
"It was a streak that will live forever in the annals of NCAA history," McDonnell said.
"Congratulations VCU, for this incredible tournament, and for making all Virginians 'Rams' over the past few weeks."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.