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Late bucket sinks VMI at The Citadel in 75-74 heartbreaker

VMI AthleticsHayden Brown hit a driving layup with 1.1 seconds remaining to lift The Citadel past VMI 75-74 in SoCon basketball action Saturday at McAlister Field House.

The Citadel (12-9, 5-9 SoCon) denied VMI a fifth straight win in the series and placed four in double figures scoring, led by senior guard Kaiden Rice who scored a game-high 20 points.

Brown posted his 12th double-double of the year with 14 points and 14 rebounds while Fletcher Abee contributed 19 points for the hosts.

VMI, seeking a third straight conference win entering the day, fell to 12-11 overall and 7-7 in SoCon play. The Keydets were led by junior center Jake Stephens with 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.

Guards Greg Parham and Kamdyn Curfman each chipped in 17 points.

Stephens produced his fifth double-double of the season while reaching double figures scoring for the 13th consecutive game. Curfman hit double figures scoring for the seventh straight contest.

Myles Lewis pulled down 11 rebounds for his third straight double-digit rebounding game.

Abee put the Bulldogs ahead 73-69 with a layup with 1:49 left but the Keydets responded with a Parham banker and three-point play by Lewis that pushed the Keydets ahead 74-73 with 18.2 left. The Citadel brought the ball front court and burned its final timeout with 14 seconds remaining. When play resumed and the clock in the final five seconds, The Citadel guard Tyler Moffe dribbled into the paint and handed back to Brown near the free throw line with seconds remaining. Brown found an open lane and cut to the goal scoring the game winner with 1.1 left.

The Keydets inbounded backcourt for a last chance effort, but Sean Conway’s running heave just beyond the mid-court stripe was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.

“That was a tough one,” VMI coach Dan Earl said. “It seems like many of our battles with The Citadel come down to the last possession. Credit to them, they made the last play.”

The game was touted as a battle between two of the top three-point shooting teams in the country, but was anything but a perimeter shootout. The score was 32-30 at the break and an intense battle in the lane ensued in the second half.

The Citadel held a 40-34 advantage in points in the paint for the game while the Keydets outrebounded the Bulldogs 44-42.

VMI shot a season low 23.3 percent (7-of-30) from three-point range while the Bulldogs were 6-of-30 beyond the stripe.

Neither team built a double-digit lead in the contest, and the largest second half lead by either team in the second half was five points held by VMI (56-51) with over eight minutes remaining.

“I was proud of the guys’ fight throughout the game,” Earl said. “We didn’t play particularly well and unfortunately, we uncharacteristically shot very poorly. However, our guys battled and we had a chance to win down the stretch. The season doesn’t stop, so we have to keep our head high and get ready for another SoCon battle against a very good Furman team on Monday.”


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