OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oregon State guard Gary Payton II electrified the Oklahoma City Regional with a pair of ferocious dunks and a series of acrobatic plays.
While Payton dazzled at one end, VCU dominated at the other. In the end, the 10th-seeded Rams weathered Payton's one-man show in the second half by owning the paint to hold off the No. 7 Beavers 75-67 and advance Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
All told, the Rams produced 46 points in the paint, flanked also by a pair of key 3-pointers, which gave VCU back the momentum for good after a furious Payton flurry midway through the second half.
With the Beavers trailing 47-39 and in desperate need of a spark, Payton picked picked off an errant VCU pass to set up a two-on-one break the other way. Payton passed off to teammate Derrick Bruce, who then tossed an alley-oop back to Payton. Though the pass was low, Payton reached below his waist and flushed down the dunk anyway. The play ignited a 14-2 Oregon State run, which Payton capped with a thunderous breakaway dunk to put the Beavers ahead for the first time in the second half.
VCU countered by nailing just its second and third 3-pointers of the game. Then Rams center Mo Alie-Cox threw down a dunk while drawing a foul. The play put VCU ahead 58-52 with 6:28 remaining.
Despite finishing with 19 points and four assists, Payton was unable to mount another run.
Oregon State was making its first tournament appearance in 26 years. The last time the Beavers were in the Big Dance, Payton's father was actually leading the way. Gary Payton was in attendance in Oklahoma City on the first row behind Oregon State's bench.