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Baldwin free throws propel VCU to 67-65 victory over Saint Louis

Baldwin free throws propel VCU to 67-65 victory over Saint Louis

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VCU’s Ace Baldwin said he’s built for the moment he faced late in Tuesday night’s game against Saint Louis at the Siegel Center.

The freshman point guard proved it with aplomb.

Baldwin was put on the free throw line twice in the final minute against the Billikens. He made his first set of two free throws with about 50 seconds to play and tied the game.

Then, with 4.7 seconds to go, he hit another pair. Those shots propelled VCU to a 67-65 victory, a triumph for a Rams team playing short-handed.

“I’m not going to lie, I feel as though those moments are really regular. ... Not to be all cocky or anything, I’m just saying,” Baldwin said of his performance at the free throw line.

VCU (17-5, 10-3) was playing without star sophomore guard Bones Hyland, who sat after spraining his right foot in the Rams’ overtime loss to George Mason on Saturday.

Hyland has averaged a team-high 19.2 points, plus 4.4 rebounds and 2 steals, playing at a conference player-of-the-year level.

The Rams were also without junior guard KeShawn Curry. , a native of Jacksonville, Fla., was with his family after his brother was killed on Saturday night, Rhoades said in a pregame interview with Ram Radio’s Robby Robinson.

That meant players had to step up across the board. Baldwin played 40 minutes. Freshman wing Jamir Watkins earned his first career start, in place of Hyland in the backcourt with Baldwin.

Freshman guard Josh Banks played a career-high 20 minutes and scored a career-high 7 points.

Coach Mike Rhoades said he had a feeling driving to work Tuesday that his group would figure things out. The message was “next man up.”

“Our young guys really played up to their ability,” junior Vince Williams said. “And came out and kept fighting. Even our older guys kept leaning on them, too, for help. And they did their part for sure.”

Williams finished with team highs of 16 points and nine reounds. Baldwin had 15 points and seven assists.

VCU had a hot start to its second half. Watkins was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three of his free throws, before Williams nailed a 3-pointer. That shot the Rams to a 39-31 advantage, the game’s largest.

But the Billikens (11-5, 4-4), after shooting just 33.3% in the first half, settled into a groove in the second half, keyed by inside scoring. Saint Louis, after the 6-0 spurt by VCU, ran off to a 13-0 spurt, including two baskets each from Goodwin and Joshua Hightower.

They led 44-39 at the end of it with 14:37 to play.

But VCU recovered effectively. Williams hit a 3 and Baldwin drove to the basket to tie the game at 44.

Shortly thereafter, Baldwin found 7-1 Coppin State transfer Brendan Medley-Bacon for a dunk, his first career field goal at VCU. Then Williams hit another 3 to put VCU up 49-46 with 11:17 left.

The teams continued to spar down the stretch. A jumper by Jordan Goodwin put Saint Louis up 65-63 with 1:07 to play.

But that’s when Baldwin stepped up at the foul line. Saint Louis called a timeout between his first and second shots with 4.7 seconds left, but he cooly hit the second.

The Billikens still got a last-second shot. But a 3-point attempt by Javonte Perkins was off the mark.

Afterward, Rams hopped back to their bench with excitement. Baldwin and Hyland chest-bumped. Rhoades said Hyland should be ready to go for Saturday’s game at Davidson, VCU’s regular-season finale.

Tuesday, multiple Rams stepped up to win in his stead.

“What a game,” Rhoades said. “That was fun, that was fun.”

FG FT Reb

SLU M M-A M-A O-T A PF PT

French 28 9-15 3-4 5-8 1 5 21

Collins 33 0-1 1-2 1-7 3 1 1

Goodwin 36 6-12 3-5 2-12 3 4 16

Jimerson 23 2-6 0-0 0-3 0 0 6

Perkins 39 6-15 1-1 1-6 1 2 16

Jacobs 15 0-2 2-2 2-2 2 2 2

Thatch 13 1-4 0-2 1-1 1 1 2

Linssen 9 0-1 1-2 0-1 0 5 1

Bell 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Hargrove 2 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Totals 200 24-57 11-18 12-40 11 20 65

Percentages: FG .421, FT .611. 3-Point Goals: 6-21, .286 (Perkins 3-7, Jimerson 2-6, Goodwin 1-3, Collins 0-1, Hargrove 0-1, Thatch 0-1, Jacobs 0-2). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocks: 5 (French 2, Jacobs, Linssen, Perkins). Turnovers: 15 (Collins 4, French 3, Perkins 3, Linssen 2, Goodwin, Hargrove, Jimerson). Steals: 2 (Goodwin, Jacobs).

FG FT Reb

VCU M M-A M-A O-T A PF PT

Stockard 23 4-7 1-3 0-1 1 2 9

Ward 24 4-4 0-0 0-2 3 4 8

Watkins 29 2-11 4-5 1-4 3 1 9

Williams 31 5-10 2-3 0-9 0 3 16

Baldwin 40 5-12 4-4 0-3 7 1 15

Banks 20 3-5 0-0 0-1 2 2 7

Brwn-Jnes 18 0-4 1-2 2-4 0 2 1

Douglas 10 0-0 0-0 1-1 0 2 0

Mdly-Bcn 6 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 2

Totals 200 24-55 12-17 4-25 16 17 67

Percentages: FG .436, FT .706. 3-Point Goals: 7-21, .333 (Williams 4-8, Banks 1-3, Baldwin 1-4, Watkins 1-4, Brown-Jones 0-2). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocks: 7 (Ward 3, Stockard 2, Brown-Jones, Watkins). Turnovers: 6 (Baldwin 2, Stockard, Ward, Watkins, Williams). Steals: 6 (Baldwin 3, Stockard, Watkins, Williams).

Saint Louis 29 36 — 65

VCU 33 34 — 67

wepps@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6442

Twitter: @wayneeppsjr

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