Gore leads VMI to big win over Radford

Nick Gore scored eight straight points to spark a 27-5 second half run, and the VMI Keydets overcame early shooting woes to top the Radford Highlanders, 71-58, in Big South basketball action Saturday afternoon at Cameron Hall in Lexington, Va.

After the score was tied at halftime, Radford opened the second half on a 6-1 run. Gore answered with an old-fashioned three-point play with 17:17 to play, and after a Highlander three-pointer gave the visitors their biggest lead of the night, Gore tallied the next five points to keep the Keydets close.

VMI was able to tie it on a Michael Sparks three-pointer with 13:40 remaining, and Austin Kenon hit a triple 1:30 later to give the Keydets the lead for good.

With the win, VMI moves to 14-11 on the year, 7-8 in the Big South and the squad clinches a berth in March’s Big South Championship. The Keydets also earned their first home win over Radford (5-20, 2-13 BSC) since the 2006-07 campaign, as the Highlanders dropped to 0-13 on the road this season. Radford’s 58 points were the second-fewest allowed by VMI this season, after Jacksonville State scored 55 on Nov. 18.

VMI was paced by Michael Sparks’ 15 points, as five different Keydets scored between 10 and 15 markers. Radford’s Tolga Cerrah notched 15 points and 15 rebounds to pace the visiting squad.

The Keydets got off to a dismal start, hitting just two of their first 10 shots from the floor. Radford raced out to a 10-5 lead early, as VMI’s cold shooting continued. The Keydets could not take their first lead of the day until the 7:37 mark, as Stan Okoye hit a three-pointer to make the score 16-15, VMI.

The home team stretched the margin to six, 25-19, but Radford scored nine of the half’s last 12 points, tying the score at the intermission, 28-28. Those 28 points were the lowest Keydet output in a half since Jan. 7, 2010 against Winthrop, when VMI scored 25 points in the first half of a road loss.

On this day, the Keydets hit just 10 of 35 (28.6%) from the floor in the first 20 minutes, including just two field goals combined from D.J. Covington, Rodney Glasgow, Austin Kenon and Keith Gabriel.

VMI came out of the locker room with the strong effort from Gore, launching the 27-5 game-deciding run. Including in that spurt was a secondary 16-2 push, during which Covington scored eight points, including two thunderous dunks that electrified the crowd of 3,510.

When the runs were over, the Keydets had turned the game from a 40-34 Radford advantage to a 61-45 Keydet lead with 6:58 to go. The Highlanders closed the margin to seven in the final two minutes, but VMI went six of six from the foul line in the closing moments to seal the win.

Despite scoring just 10 points, VMI’s Kenon had seven assists, just one short of his career-high, and fell just two shy of his career-best in rebounds, with seven on Saturday afternoon. Ron Burks added six assists and just one turnover, as the Keydets shot 46.4% in the second half to win their second consecutive game.


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