Updated at: 03/15/2013 9:09 PM
By RACHEL COHEN
(AP) NEW YORK - Saint Joseph’s missed a few open shots and blew a few defensive assignments that would have left no need for a frantic comeback attempt.
The Hawks almost came all the way back from a late 15-point deficit against No. 25 VCU, but almost was all they could manage. The Rams escaped with an 82-79 victory in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament Friday night.
"I compliment my team. We asked them to play 40 minutes, and they played a full 40 minutes," Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. "But you get a scholarship to play hard. You have to play well, and I don’t think we played particularly well for long stretches of this game."
The 10th-seeded Hawks (18-13) pulled within 80-76 with 9.1 seconds to go, but Darius Theus found an open Briante Weber downcourt for an emphatic slam to cap the win.
Second-seeded VCU (25-7) made 11 of its first 21 3-point attempts to go up by 17 with just over eight minutes left.
"We messed up on a couple assignments," Saint Joseph’s guard Langston Galloway said. "They got free; they hit jumpers when they needed to. That was the difference in the game."
Carl Jones scored 29 points and Galloway added 25.
Treveon Graham had 17 points for VCU, one of five players in double figures.
VCU scored seven straight points in less than a minute-and-a-half to break open the game midway through the second half. Halil Kanacevic, who was also in the middle of some chippy moments in the first half, appeared to have a potential three-point play to pull the Hawks within five.
Instead, he was called for a flagrant foul after his elbow smacked Graham in the jaw as the Saint Joseph’s forward drove to the basket. Graham made both free throws, then Daniels hit a 3 for a five-point possession. When Theus blew past Jones for an uncontested layup, VCU was suddenly up 58-43.
The Rams forced 17 turnovers and converted them into 25 points.
"Like most young players, we dropped our head a little bit when then ball wasn’t going in," Martelli said. "They caught us."
Up by double digits in the second half, the Rams kept taking 3-pointers early in the shot clock and missed their last seven.
"It’s just what we do. We’re not very good when we’re not aggressive," coach Shaka Smart said.
Down 72-57 with less than two minutes left, the Hawks got two 3-pointers from Galloway and another from Jones as they raced back.
The Rams left behind the home-court advantage of playing their conference tournament in Richmond when they departed the Colonial Athletic Association for the A-10 this season. Not that anyone could tell Friday, with a large contingent of fans in black and gold roaring every time VCU forced a turnover or drained a 3-pointer.
Also in the crowd at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center was noted New York City basketball fan Spike Lee.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)