"I complimented our team. We asked them to play a full 40 minutes, and they played a full 40 minutes, but you get a scholarship to play hard," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "You have to play well, and I don't think we played particularly well for long stretches in this game and in positions in this game."
St. Joseph's got to within 49-43 when senior guard Carl Jones hit a layup with 12 minutes, 30 seconds left in the second half, but VCU went on a 9-0 run and maintained what appeared to be a comfortable lead.
The Hawks kept fighting, and Jones hit a three-point field goal with 53 seconds left to cut the lead to 74-69. Langston Galloway's three-pointer with 13 seconds left cut the margin to 80-76.
A three-pointer at the buzzer by Hawks forward Papa Ndao accounted for the final margin.
Truly, the Hawks went down fighting when most figured that 80 minutes in two nights would leave them dragging.
"[Fatigue] was not a problem," Galloway said. "We got good rest and came out and played hard."
VCU (25-7) will meet the winner of the Temple-Massachusetts game in Saturday's 4 p.m. semifinal.
Not only is VCU fast running the court, but the Rams can shoot three-pointers at a rapid rate. VCU shot 11 for 28 from beyond the arc. The Hawks were 9 for 18.
"We missed up a couple of assignments, and they got free and hit jumpers when they needed to," Galloway said.
Jones scored 29 points while Galloway added 25.
VCU placed five players in double figures, led by Trevon Graham, a 6-5 sophomore who scored 17 points.
The Hawks played two competitive games with VCU, losing a regular-season road game, 92-86 in overtime.
"St. Joe's deserves a lot of credit," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "They battled in the second half and came out and shot the ball extremely well."
Contact Marc Narducci at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @sjnard on Twitter.