NEW YORK (AP) — There are differences between Will Wade’s VCU Rams and Shaka Smart’s.
When Smart left to become the Texas coach he took his end-to-end pressure defense known as “Havoc” with him and some key players have moved on, too.
The results, though, have been pretty much the same.
Mo Alie-Cox scored 13 points, including a rim-shaking slam off a lob from JeQuan Lewis, and VCU ran out to an emphatic 76-54 victory against Davidson on Saturday to reach the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship game for the fourth straight season.
It will be the sixth straight conference tournament final for the Rams, dating back to their days in the Colonial Athletic Association. They have reached the championship game in the A-10 each season since they joined the league and the tournament moved to Brooklyn.
“Glad I didn’t break the streak,” said Wade, the former Smart assistant who was at Chattanooga last year.
The defending champion and second-seeded Rams (24-9) will face fourth-seeded St. Joseph’s, which knocked off top-seed Dayton, in Sunday’s final at Barclays Center. St. Joe’s beat VCU in the 2014 for the A-10 title.
“We’ve lost two championships here and last year we got a taste of what winning felt like,” Alie-Cox said. “So I told (my teammates) here’s no better feeling than going home with a win instead of a loss.”
Brian Sullivan scored 15 points for sixth-seeded Davidson (20-12), which beat St. Bonaventure in overtime late Friday night. The Wildcats lost three times to VCU this season and were blown out of last year’s A-10 semifinals by the Rams.
“They’re ready to play, when the come play us,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said.
“Havoc” has been replaced by more half-court pressure, but the Rams still keep the pace brisk.
Lewis and Alie-Cox led a decisive run early in the second half. The 250-pound Alie-Cox went high to jam a Lewis lob that made it 51-30 with 16:05 left.
Korey Billbury led VCU with 17 points.
As time wound down, VCU fans chanted “Will! Wade!” They have warmed up to the new guy and his team.
“Our expectations were a little bit lower than they’ve been this year,” Wade said. “I don’t think a lot of people thought we’d tie for the regular season, and we’re back in the conference final.”
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