After a spirited first half that saw the two squads separated by just one point, the Clemson Tigers outscored the VMI Keydets 32-6 over the final 12-plus minutes en route to a 80-50 win in non-conference action Monday night in Clemson, S.C.
There were six ties and seven lead changes in the first half, a period that saw VMI (6-6) lead by as many as eight, but Clemson (9-3) scored the final bucket of the half to take the lead for good at 32-31.
The Keydets remained within striking distance early in the second period, cutting the lead to 48-44 on a Trey Chapman lay-up with12:29 left, but Clemson answered with an immediate 15-2 run to go up 63-46. The visitors got no closer than 15 the rest of the way, as the Tigers scored 17 of the game’s final 21 points to account for the final margin.
D.J. Covington led the Keydets with a double-double, posting 20 points and 12 rebounds, but Clemson held the rest of the VMI team to 11 for 54 (20.3%) from the field. While Covington’s 20 markers led all scorers, CU put four players in double figures, led by Jordan Roper’s 19.
The game was a bit ragged early, as neither squad could hit double figures on the board until Rodney Glasgow hit a jumper with 13:46left in the first half, a shot that gave VMI a 10-7 lead. CU scored at the other end, but VMI then launched a quick 6-0 run and led by seven, 16-9, at the 12:26 mark.
After a layup by the Tigers’ Adonis Filer, QJ Peterson nailed a triple to give the Keydets a 19-11 lead with 11:48 left in the half, and that would prove to be his team’s largest cushion of the evening. The home team responded with a 9-2 push to retake the lead, 23-21, and that set up a frantic final 5:52 of the half that saw neither team lead by more than two.
Glasgow gave the Keydets the lead back, 31-30, with a hoop at the 1:17 mark, but Landry Nnoko immediately responded for the Tigers, scoring to account for the halftime margin, 32-31.
The Keydets remained within range early in the second half, as they were still within a point with 17:19 to go at 36-35. The Tigers then scored the game’s next 10 points to take their largest lead thus far, 46-35, but VMI fired back with a run of its own, using a 9-2 spurt to reduce the margin to 48-44 on Chapman’s layup with 12:29 left.
Neither team scored for the next 1:27, but K.J. McDaniel got Clemson back on the board with a basket at the 11:02 mark and that started the game-deciding run.
On the night, the Keydets finished 21 of 73 (28.8%) from the field and 3 of 28 (10.7%) from three-point range. The second half numbers told the story, as after hitting 18 shots in the first 27:31, VMI was held to just three made field goals over the final 12:21. Clemson finished 29 of 66 from the floor (43.9%) and 4 of 20 (20%) from long-range.
In addition to his double-double, Covington blocked two shots to become only the second Keydet ever to hit the 200 rejection mark in a career. He is now just two shy of tying Lewis Preston (202) for the school record.
VMI basketball will return to action Saturday, taking on Washington College at Cameron Hall. Game time is set for 1 p.m.
Quotes – VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
Overall Thoughts: “With 12 minutes to go, it was a four-point game and we just quit making shots. We couldn’t get them to go in. They got some run-outs and we turned it over a few times that led directly to lay-ups. Their size bothered us.
“We had some uncontested shots, though, a lot of wide open threes. Out of our 28 threes, I would say 15 were wide open. We had four threes on one possession and didn’t make any. I told them if we didn’t make shots they would run right back at us. We didn’t do a good job getting back.
“We had two starters out, and those guys were missed tonight. Our depth was missing. We gave other guys opportunities, but they didn’t take advantage. It’s just tough. Credit Clemson, though. They extend out and we didn’t run the floor hard, especially some times in the second half. I think we just got tired because they had a few extra bodies.”
On D.J. Covington’s play: “Yeah, he played well. My challenge to him, though, was to play that well against Longwood. I said ‘You can play that good against Virginia Tech and Clemson, now be that good against Longwood. He played really, really well tonight.”