Va. Commonwealth 46, NC-Wilmington 43
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Ivan Chappell made four free throws in the final 37.8 seconds Monday night as Virginia Commonwealth outlasted N.C.-Wilmington 46-43 to win the Colonial Athletic Conference championship.
The Rams (24-8), who also won the CAA regular season title with a 14-2 record in their first year in the league, earned an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament, their first trip since 1985.
N.C.-Wilmington (13-16), which reached the title game by holding Old Dominion to 26.2 percent shooting in a 59-39 semifinal victory, scored only 17 points in the second half in their bid for their first NCAA berth.
Chappell, a 6-foot-6 forward, made 7 of 8 free throws, including the four down the stretch. The first two came with VCU clinging to a 42-40 lead, the last two after a 3-pointer by Stan Simmons drew the Seahawks within one.
Besides Chappell, the Rams were 3-for-12 from the foul line.
Simmons, who averaged 3.5 points this season, made 5 of 7 3-point shots and led all scorers with 17 points. He was stripped of the ball by Ben Peabody with :02 left, though, depriving the Seahawks of their last chance.
Peabody also made a heads-up play with 2:43 left, sneaking inside on the baseline to force a jump ball with N.C.-Wilmington center Preston McGriff, winning the Rams possession because the arrow was pointing their way.
Bernard Hopkins, the CAA’s player of the year, scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half for the Rams. VCU dominated the boards 22-14 over the final 20 minutes, including an 8-3 edge on the offensive glass.
Playing for the third time in as many days, both teams struggled all game from the field. VCU made only 16 of 45 shots, or 35.6 percent, and the Seahawks were 15-for-48, or 31.3 percent.