Dayton, OH – Brooklyn, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - When Briante Weber was lost for the season with a torn ACL, VCU's future seemed grim.
But after losing five of nine following the star point guard's injury, VCU has found its stride.
Treveon Graham had 20 points and 13 rebounds and with Weber in street clothes cheering them on from the sidelines, the Rams took down Dayton 71-65 on Sunday to claim the Atlantic 10 title.
There were three ties in the final 3:10 before VCU pulled away. Graham darted in for a layup at 1:16 to make it 61-59 and out of a timeout, Doug Brooks intercepted a Scoochie Smith pass and fed JeQuan Lewis for another layup.
The Rams shot 8-for-8 from the foul line in the final minute to seal the deal.
After the final horn sounded, Weber broke down in tears at midcourt, surrounded by his teammates and head coach Shaka Smart, who was visibly emotional.
"Words really can't explain how proud I am of these guys," said Weber. "It's been an emotional roller coaster."
"Bri is a very emotional kid," added Smart. "He's been through a lot this year. It really, really kills him every time he can't take the court."
Lewis netted 15 points and Terry Larrier and Mo Alie-Cox added 13 apiece for the Rams (26-9), who are heading to their fifth straight NCAA Tournament.
Smith paced Dayton (25-8) with 16 points in a balanced effort. Jordan Sibert and Dyshawn Pierre each had 14 points, and Kendall Pollard scored 13.
"I thought we played extremely hard," said Dayton coach Archie Miller. "Our guys really battled."
VCU earned a seven seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament while Davidson will head to the South Region as a 10 seed.
Melvin Johnson and Graham hit 3s on back-to-back possessions seven minutes in to give VCU a 12-7 lead. Pierre countered with consecutive layups at the other end to jumpstart an 11-0 Dayton run. Sibert hit his only triple of the game to cap the rally.
The Rams responded with the next 10 points. Then Larrier, Johnson and Lewis all hit from deep over the final 1 1/2 minutes of the half, and VCU led 33-26 at the break.
Lewis and Larrier picked up right where they left off out of halftime, hitting quick treys to give VCU its largest lead at 39-28. Once again, Dayton answered, this time with a 12-1 flurry to knot the score at 43 just before the midpoint of the half.
This was VCU's first A-10 title. It lost the final each of the past two seasons ... VCU improved to 33-9 under Smart in March ... The Flyers shot just 2-for-12 from behind the arc, while VCU went 10-for-27 ... VCU had 51 offensive rebounds in four A-10 Tournament games.