Underdog VCU too much for Purdue

CHICAGO — Matt Painter's United Center sidelines view to a rout left him shaking his head. Buttons had been pushed, coaching delivered, motivation applied.

Nothing worked. Four years worth of defensive principle teaching vanished. Record-breaking Purdue careers ended with submission rather than fight. Underdog VCU hammered that point home with Sunday night's 94-76 third-round NCAA tourney victory.

"We scored 76 points," Painter said. "That should be enough to win."

The Boilers' JaJuan Johnson ended his All-America career with 25 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Fellow All-Big Ten senior E'Twaun Moore went out with 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Together they had played in a school-record 107 victories.

"It's tough to handle," Moore said. "You want to go out on top and go to the Final Four and win a championship. We fell short. We'll keep our heads up."

Eleventh-seeded VCU (26-11) tapped into the magic that has made Butler a mid-major March marvel. The Rams struck with quickness and intensity the Boilers couldn't match. They turned Purdue's defensive reputation into a myth with 48 points in the paint, and scored the most points the Boilers had allowed all season. It was Purdue's first loss in 41 games when scoring at least 70 points.

VCU point guard Joey Rodriguez led the way with 12 points, 11 assists and no turnovers.

"He was the difference," Painter said. "He ran the team. He found shooters. He was persistent, very determined. We had a difficult time getting him stopped."

The Rams' third tourney victory in five days — by an average margin of 16.3 points — earned them a Sweet Sixteen opportunity in San Antonio.

It earned Purdue a trip home.

"Our guys are realizing how good they can be," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "I didn't think we'd score this easily. It's not so much what Purdue didn't do as much as a reflection on our guys and how well they've executed what we tried to do and how well Joey ran the show."

Added Painter: "They're a championship-caliber team. I know it's tough for some people to understand that, but I think you just saw a glimpse of a team that can make an even deeper run in the NCAA Tournament."

Ryne Smith, an offensive no-show (0-for-5 shooting, no points) in Purdue's opening-round victory over Saint Peter's two days earlier, erupted for a career-high-tying 20 points.

It wasn't close to being enough.

"They're just hot, an extremely good team," Smith said. "I wish them all the luck. They could be very dangerous in San Antonio, especially with the way they shoot."

Third-seeded Purdue (26-8) ended with losses in three of its last four games.

"There were no surprises," Smith said. "We didn't play as hard as we could and that's why we're headed home."

Three-point shooting had fueled VCU's NCAA tourney run. It had a combined 21 three-pointers in wins over USC and Georgetown.

A key question — could the Boilers shut that down?

The key answer — sort of (VCU was 8-for-21), but so what. The Rams had three games worth of layups and dunks against one of the Big Ten's best defensive teams.

VCU dribble penetrated into the paint at will and used ball screens to force defensive rotations that left Rams wide open under the basket. They shot 56.9 percent from the field, 65.5 percent in the second half.

"It was some basic things we didn't cover up," Painter said, adding it was defensive principles players had spent years learning.

On this night it turned into quantum physics.

"It just exposed us," Painter said.

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