Saxen, Ducas score 17 each Saint Mary's beats VCU 63-51
ALBANY, N.Y. — Mitchell Saxen had 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, and Saint Mary’s beat ailing VCU 63-51 in the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
Alex Ducas also scored 17 points as the fifth-seeded Gaels (27-7) advanced to the second round for the second straight year. Logan Johnson had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and reserve Augustas Marciulionis scored 13 points.
Ace Baldwin led VCU (27-8) with 13 points, but he appeared to sprain his right ankle on his landing after taking a jumper with just over 14 minutes left in regulation. The Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year lay on the court for a couple of minutes before receiving treatment on the bench and back in the locker room.
VCU was down 38-34 when Baldwin left and 48-39 when he came back with 9:03 left after the Gaels of the West Coast Conference went on a 10-5 spurt sparked by a three-point play by Kyle Bowen.
Saint Mary’s, which held a 37-29 rebounding edge, will play No. 4 seed UConn or 13th-seeded Iona and coach Rick Pitino on Sunday.
The NCAA appearance was the first for 12th-seeded VCU since it had to forfeit a game in the 2021 tournament because of a COVID-19 outbreak. The Rams had won nine in a row.
Saint Mary's held a 29-28 halftime lead in a rugged contest where neither team led by more than four points and tight, tough defense was the norm.
VCU: The Rams have a lot coming back so they will be back.
Saint Mary's: It was a matchup of the Rams' up-tempo game and the Gaels' deliberate style. Saint Mary's got its pace and showed it can play defense, too.
Saint Mary's got bounced in the second round by UCLA late year after beating Indiana by 29.