Keydets drop second straight
Presbyterian knocks off VMI despite 30 from Okoye
Sophomore forward Stan Okoye led VMI with a career-high 30 points and chipped in eight rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as VMI fell to the Presbyterian College Blue Hose 92-78 in front of a season-high 2,989 fans at VMI’s Cameron Hall Saturday, Dec. 4.
The Keydets drooped their second straight Big South Conference game and stand 6-3 overall, 0-2, while PC improved to 3-5, 1-1. Okoye began the game on a tear for the Keydets, scoring VMI’s first 8 points of the contest and 11 of VMI’s first 13 as the Keydets held a 13-10 lead at the 15:31 portion of the first half.
Presbyterian College would knot the contest for the first time in the contest at 16-16 at the 13:38 mark on a free-throw by A’Lonzo Coleman. VMI would answer right back however, on a basket by junior Nick Gore to retake the lead before the contest would be knotted up at 21-21 with 11:45 to go in the opening half.
PC took a five-point lead at the 9:19 mark, as Khalid Mutakabbir 3-pointer extended the lead. Nearly a minute later, sophomore Michael Sparks hit his first three of the afternoon to cut the advantage to 31-27 in favor of the Blue Hose.
Each side would then go nearly three minutes without a bucket, as junior Keith Gabriel, who was honored as the 32nd player in VMI history to join the Keydet 1,000-point club prior to the contest, broke the streak from the charity stripe at 6:35 of the first half to cut the PC lead to 31-28. On the next VMI possession, Gabriel was fouled in the act on a tomahawk dunk, and went on to hit the ensuing free-throw to tie the game at the 5:54 mark and complete the 3-point play.
Gabriel went on to score five consecutive points, hitting a runner in the lane, followed by his first three of the afternoon with 4:36 left to give VMI its first lead since the 10:30 portion of the contest. The buckets gave Gabriel 11-straight points in the middle portion of the opening stanza.
PC would knot the contest 2:28, as Pierre Miller converted on a breakaway lay-in, tying the score at 38-38, and would take a bucket lead as Jake Troyli converted on a pair of free-throws with 2:02 left in the half to retake the lead at 40-38.
Gabriel hit his second three of the half with 45 seconds left to give VMI a 41-40 advantage, but a Walt Allen trey in the waning seconds would send the game into the half with a 43-41 tally in favor of the Blue Hose.
Okoye entered the intermission with a game-high 15 points and four boards, while Gabriel was the leading Keydet scorer in the tail end of the half, pouring in 13 points in less than 10 minutes. Gore led VMI with five rebounds off the bench. VMI shot 43.2 percent from the field, but were only 5-of-20 (25 percent) from three in the first half.
PC featured a more balanced attack in the opening half, with Mutakabbir leading the way with 11. Walt Allen, along with Troyli had nine, while preseason All-Big South pick, Coleman, was held to five points on 2-of-8 shooting. Collectively, the Blue Hose shot 44.4 percent (16-of-36) from the field, and were a solid 5-of-10 (50 percent) from three.
PC came out of the gates in the second frame firing, extending its lead to 49-41 in the opening three minutes. Freshman D.J. Covington opened up the half on a hot-streak, scoring VMI’s first four points on the stanza, accounting for nearly half of VMI’s points in the opening seven minutes of the second half.
However, the Blue Hose continued its solid shooting, going on a 17-6 run in the opening seven minutes to take a 60-47 lead, paced by Coleman who had six points in the streak and 10 in the opening nine minutes of the second period. During that portion of the contest, the Blue Hose led by as many as 15 points.
An Okoye dunk off of his own miss at the 10:05 mark of the cut the PC lead to 12, and resulted in the junior’s first bucket in nearly 13 minutes after starting off the game on fire. Okoye hit a three-pointer with 8:31 left cut the deficit the PC advantage to single-digits at nine points.
Senior Austin Kenon hit a 3-pointer with 6:15 left to cut the PC advantage to 70-63, which was followed up by Okoye hitting a pair of free-throws to cut the Blue Hose lead to 70-65 with 5:33 remaining. However, Miller answered back with his second 3-pointer of the afternoon to stretch the lead back to 8 points just over five minutes to go.
The five-point deficit was the closest VMI would come to retaking the lead, as the Blue Hose outscored the Keydets 22-13 over the last 5:33 to secure the victory.
PC’s Coleman fouled out for the second-straight game at the 1:26 mark after an outstanding second-half, scoring 23 points, 18 in the second half, in the victory after only five in the first-frame. He also added eight rebounds.
In all, PC had five players in double-figures along with Coleman, as Mutakabbir had 22, and was 6-of-7 from the field. Troyli had 16 points, while Miller chipped in 16 to go along with Allen’s 11. In the second-half, PC shot a scorching 69.2 percent in the second period, and 54.8 percent on the game.
Along with Okoye’s 30, Gabriel ended with 14 points as he was held scoreless in the second frame. Kenon had 12 points, seven of which came from the charity stripe as VMI shot 42.4 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from three.