Seniors Garret Stutz and Joe Ragland hung their heads as they left the court for the final time as Shockers.
Stutz had a look at a tying 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was off and Wichita State lost 62-59 to VCU in the second round of the South Regional on Thursday night.
"Just really disappointed in not being able to advance, especially for my seniors," Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said later, with Ragland and Stutz at his side. "They put in a lot of work and time and effort. They're a character, class group."
Wichita State trailed by as many as 13 in the second half but rallied to threaten the Rams, who made a surprising run to the Final Four in last year's NCAA tournament.
The fifth-seeded Shockers (26-6) closed to 54-53 on Stutz's layup with 5:39 left. Troy Daniels hit a 3-pointer for the Rams (29-6), and Ragland answered with his own for the Shockers.
Toure Murry made a 3 that gave Wichita State the lead, but Bradford Burgess came back with another 3 to give the Rams a 60-59 edge. Darius Theus then tacked on a runner before Stutz's last-chance attempt was off.
Ragland finished with 15 points after getting off to a slow start, and Stutz, the Shockers' 7-foot center, had four points and seven rebounds.
"I'll have other opportunities and hopefully the guys that are underclassmen in the locker room will have other opportunities," Marshall said. "But our seniors, they're wearing the uniform for the last time, so it's about them right now."
Burgess finished with 16 points, and Theus and Daniels had 10 points apiece for VCU, which beat Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas in the tournament last year, becoming just the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four. The run ended when they lost to Butler in Houston.
Virginia Commonwealth earned a second straight tournament berth by edging Drexel 59-56 in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament this season.
Wichita State was ranked No. 18 in the final The Associated Press poll. The Shockers won the regular-season title in the Missouri Valley Conference, but lost to Illinois State in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
There were lots of missed shots on both sides early, but Rob Brandenberg hit a 3-pointer to put VCU in front 17-13 midway through the first half.
Wichita State put together an 11-0 run to make it 24-21 with 5:27 left. Carl Hall capped the surge with a layup.
Treveon Graham broke the VCU scoring drought with a jumper and Burgess added a 3-pointer, sparking a 13-1 run that lifted the Rams to a 34-25 lead at the break.
Burgess scored 13 points during a dominating first half, except for an errant 3-pointer that fell far short of the basket.
Virginia Commonwealth stretched the lead to 41-29 after Brandenberg's layup. His jumper a short time later gave the Rams a 46-33 lead, but Ben Smith had a layup before David Kyles scored five quick points to trim VCU's lead to 46-40.
Ragland, who was quiet most of the first half, made a 3-pointer with 7:23 left and Stutz tapped in a shot to get Wichita State within one at 54-53.
In their only previous meeting, VCU beat the Shockers 68-67 in Wichita last season. Senior Joey Rodriquez had 15 points and 11 rebounds in the victory, while Jamie Skeen, also departed this season, had 11 points and 12 rebounds. Two late free throws were the difference.
It was the first NCAA tournament appearance for Wichita State since 2006, when it advanced to the regional semifinals.