Behind a combined 55 points from their three leading scorers – D.J. Covington, QJ Peterson and Rodney Glasgow – the VMI Keydets claimed the All-Military Classic championship with a 71-63 win over the Air Force Falcons Saturday evening at Cameron Hall in Lexington, Va.
The win marked VMI’s first title in the three years the tournament has been held, and Peterson was named the Classic’s MVP at the conclusion of the contest. Glasgow was also named to the all-tournament team.
After a hard-fought, close contest early, Tre Coggins hit a three-pointer to pull Air Force (1-1) within four at 24-20 with 4:45 on the clock, but VMI closed the half with a 15-5 run, capped by a four-point play by Peterson in the final seconds that sent VMI (2-0) to a 14-point halftime lead. The home team stretched the lead to as many as 21 in the second half, and despite a bit of a rally, AFA could get no closer than nine points until the final score was tallied.
Covington led the Keydets in the title game with 20 points and seven rebounds, while Peterson chipped in with 19 and his second-straight four steal game. Glasgow added 16 points and five assists against just one turnover. Marek Olesinski had 23 points and nine rebounds to pace Air Force before the sixth-largest crowd in Cameron Hall history, 4,195 fans.
Air Force, the two-time defending tournament champions, sprinted out to an 11-4 lead behind five points from Coggins, but VMI came right back. An 11-2 run, capped by a Covington hoop at 11:18, gave the home team a 15-13 lead. The Falcons tied it moments later, but a Weethee hoop at the 10:03 mark gave the Keydets an advantage they would not relinquish.
That margin got as high as nine before AFA scored five straight, capped by Coggins’ three at 4:45, to make it a four-point contest and set the stage for the game-breaking run. The visitors had just one field goal over the final 4:45 of the half as the VMI defense tightened en route to the 14-point halftime lead.
The Keydets had that 14-point halftime edge despite struggling from distance, where they had gone just 3 of 15. They grabbed the lead on the glass, as VMI outrebounded AFA by 12 in the first half and held a 10-3 edge in second chance points.
VMI came out of the locker room hot and quickly pushed its lead out to 17, 49-32, doing so on a Covington old-fashioned three-point play with 16:35 left. The teams then played relatively close until, with a 14-point lead at the 12:02 mark, VMI scored the next seven points to go up 21. A Glasgow three made it 61-40 with 9:17 to go and sent the Corps of Cadets into delirium.
The Falcons got within nine on two occasions in the closing minutes, but the Keydets held off the final rally and went on to the eight-point win that brought the Corps streaming onto the court. The victory was VMI’s first win in an in-season tournament since Jan. 3-4, 1978, when the Keydets won the Siena College Tournament by defeating Cleveland State and the host Saints.
VMI basketball returns to action Tuesday, taking on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem, N.C. Tip time is at 7 p.m.
QUOTES – VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
“It was long time between regular season tournament titles, but I was really proud of our guys. When we were down early, 11-4, Rodney (Glasgow) said, ‘We got this coach’, and he was right. It was a fun night. It all came together and QJ Peterson certainly didn’t play like a freshman. Our pressure wasn’t forcing a lot of turnovers but every time we scored, they had to face it. It was a cumulative effect and that’s ultimately what it’s all about. Air Force was a very tough team to prepare for, but we guarded exemplary and didn’t getting out of our assignments. We were worried coming in the season who would rebound where Stan left off and Jordan Weethee did a yeoman’s effort job last two nights.”
“The Corps was amazing and the fans were amazing. It was sweet to get this in front of the home crowd.”