RICHMOND, Va. — Taya Robinson and Sarah Te-Biasu scored 19 points apiece to lead VCU to its second NCAA tournament berth with an 81-69 win over UMass on Sunday in an improbable matchup in the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament.
The Rams, who last played in the NCAA Tournament in 2009, won by making 10 of 20 from 3-point range and 14 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter. Plus back-to-back offensive rebounds allowed VCU, up 73-67, to have a 49-second possession capped by a pair of free throws with just under a minute left.
Tera Reed added 12 points and Janika Griffith-Wallace 10 for VCU, which was playing in its third-straight title game. Robinson, a senior, was 5 of 7 behind the arc and Te-Biasu, a freshman, was 3 of 6 plus 8 of 8 at the line for her season-high scoring game.
The A-10 preseason favorite, the Rams (16-10) finished fifth and became just the second five-seed to win the tournament. UMass (14-6) was just the second seven-seed to reach the final game and would have been the first to win. The Minutewomen reached the NCAA in 1996 and 1998.
Both teams, who split during the regular season with road wins, were playing their fourth game in four days. VCU had an overtime win over Rhode Island in the quarterfinals and knocked off No. 1 see Dayton in the semifinals. UMass went to overtime in its first game then knocked off the two and three seeds.
Sydney Taylor hit five 3-pointers and scored 23 points for UMass, Angelique Ngalakulondi added 19 with nine rebounds and Sam Breen had 12. The Minutewomen only brought eight players to the tournament.
VCU trailed once by a point in the opening minutes and took a 55-53 lead into the fourth quarter. While the Rams were living at the line, UMass was 1 of 11 from 3-point range and 4 of 16 overall in the final 10 minutes.
A high scoring first half saw the Rams take a 42-37 lead, hitting 7 of 11 3-pointers and shooting 57% overall. Robinson went 4 for 4 behind the arc and had 14 points, Te-Biasu 3 of 4 for 13 points. But the Minutewomen stayed close because Ngalakulondi had a career-high 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
The offense slowed in the third quarter but the game remained tight and UMass finally got it’s first lead early in the fourth quarter. After the Minutewomen took their second one-point lead, VCU reeled off eight straight points, including the first of Reed’s two three-point plays in the fourth quarter and Griffith-Wallace’s second 3 of the period.
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