CHICAGO (AP) — The question is no longer whether Virginia Commonwealth belongs. Instead, it's: Who can stop the Rams?
Bradford Burgess scored 23 points and 11th-seeded VCU made it three victories in five days Sunday night, routing third-seeded Purdue 94-76 to earn a trip to the Southwest regional semifinals.
VCU's remarkable run sends the Rams to the round of 16 for the first time in school history.
With their fans chanting "VCU, VCU" as the final seconds ticked off the clock, they've now ousted Southern Cal, Georgetown and Purdue since Wednesday night.
Deep, fast and talented, VCU (26-11) will now play the winner of Notre Dame-Florida State on Friday in San Antonio.
Jamie Skeen added 13 points in a balanced scoring attack as the Rams led by as many 20, shutting down the Boilermakers (26-8) and, for most of the night, quieting a large contingent of Purdue fans at the United Center.
Speedy floor leader Joey Rodriguez scored 12 points and had 11 assists, controlling the tempo.
VCU shot 57 percent and had 26 assists to just four turnovers.
Big Ten Player of the Year JaJuan Johnson scored 25 in his final game for the Boilermakers to go with 14 rebounds. But Purdue's other star, E'Twaun Moore, struggled and managed just 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting
Ryne Smith had 20 points for Purdue, hitting 6-of-8 on 3-pointers.
VCU led by 10 at the half. Freshman Juvonte Reddic added 12 points, six early in the second half when the speedy Rams foiled a comeback by the Boilermakers by consistently getting open for short shots inside.
And after a timeout and a Boilermakers miss, Rodriguez didn't hesitate from way beyond the top of the key, sinking an NBA-length 3-pointer and putting the Rams up 59-44. VCU hit seven of its first eight shots in the second half to keep up what it started in the first.
When Burgess drove for a layup and then got open and sank a 3-pointer, he put the Rams ahead by 19 with just more than 11 minutes left.
The Rams shot 50 percent in the first half, had a 13-0 run, were up by as many as 13 and held on for a 42-32 cushion at intermission behind 10 points each from Burgess and Brandon Rozzell.
Playing at a frenetic pace, the Rams didn't look like a team playing their third game in five nights, proving early that their quickness, tenacity and deep bench would pose problems for the Boilermakers. Moving the ball to the open man, they let the shifty Rodriguez direct play on the floor with his dribble.
Moments after the Boilermakers' Lewis Jackson had his layup attempt blocked by Burgess, bringing the crowd to its feet, Rozzell hit another 3-pointer, pushing the lead to nine.
VCU had knocked off Southern Cal in Dayton on Wednesday night, arrived in Chicago during the wee hours Thursday and then blew out Georgetown on Friday.
Smith, who took an elbow to the head and missed two practices last week, found the range early, sinking his first four shots — three of them 3-pointers — in the first seven minutes. He had 11 points early and nearly doubled his average of 5.8. He finished the half with 14 points, keeping Purdue from being run out of the United Center even earlier.