NEW YORK (AP) — Jalen DeLoach had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and top-seeded VCU beat second-seeded Dayton 68-56 on Sunday to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the first time in eight years.
Ace Baldwin added 16 points and seven assists, sending the Rams (27-7) to the NCAA Tournament with a nine-game winning streak and a title that has often alluded them during an otherwise impressive run of consistency.
VCU had played in the A-10 final six times from 2013-21, winning just once in 2015 when it beat Dayton.
DaRon Holmes II tried to carry the Flyers (22-12) to their first A-10 title since 2003 and first NCAA bid in six years. Holmes had 28 points and 16 rebounds, but didn't get enough help in the second half. The 6-foot-10 sophomore was named the tournament's most outstanding player, averaging 22 points in three games at Barclays Center.
The Rams and Flyers split two regular-season games, decided by a total of three points. The rubber match was more of the same.
The Flyers bolted to a 10-point lead early in the second half, but Baldwin tied it at 47 with a 3 with 11:50 left in the second half and the Rams slowly edged away from there.
VCU converted three straight second-chance opportunities into seven points in the final 3 1/2 minutes, with DeLoach's work on the offensive glass spurring the effort. Brandon Johns muscled in a layup that gave the Rams a 65-56 lead with 1:57 left.
A day after Dayton's Toumani Camara went 12 for 13 from the floor in the semifinals against Fordham, he got into foul trouble and went scoreless in the first half against VCU. He fouled out with six points and six rebounds.
The 6-9 Mustapha Amzil stepped up to pair with Holmes to wear out the Rams inside. The two bigs combined to shoot 10 for 14 from the floor and score 29 points as Dayton took a 36-30 lead at halftime.
The Atlantic 10 is all but certain to be a one-bid league in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.
Typically one of the strongest mid-major conferences, the A-10 put six teams in the NCAA field in 2014 to cap a run of three years in which it had a total of 15 bids.
Dayton was 28-2 and on its way to being one of the top seeds in the 2020 NCAA Tournament before March Madness was cancelled by the pandemic.
But the conference has slipped over the past couple of seasons, putting only two teams in the NCAAs the last two seasons. And last season the A-10 needed a championship game upset by Richmond over Davidson to get that second team in via its automatic bid.
Dayton: The Flyers haven't been in the NCAA Tournament since a run of four straight appearances from 2014-17. They'll hope for an NIT bid.
VCU: The Rams are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2021 and 10th time since 2011.
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