Stephens leads VMI to 78-72 win over USC-Upstate

vmi basketballFreshman center Jake Stephens scored a career-high 20 points and the Keydets iced the game from the free-throw line Wednesday night as the VMI men’s basketball team defeated USC-Upstate 78-72 in non-conference play.

Stephens had 12 first-half points as the teams were tied at 31 entering the second half. VMI led 68-64 with less than 1:30 remaining on the game clock when junior Garrett Gilkeson drilled a three-pointer to put the Keydets up seven. The Spartans were forced to foul in the game’s final minute, and VMI responded by making 7-of-8 from the free-throw line to seal the win. Sophomore guard Bubba Parham sank all four of his attempts down the stretch, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the second half to go with a game-high seven assists.

Stephens was nearly perfect from the floor, hitting all four of his three-point attempts and 6-of-7 overall in just 20 minutes. Greg Parham posted 12 points, and Myles Lewis had eight points and a game-best eight rebounds. Tyler Creammer added eight points and six rebounds and Sarju Patel nailed 3-of-4 three point attempts and finished with 11 points.

Malik Moore hit 8-of-12 field goal attempts for a team-high 17 points for the Spartans (1-2). Everette Hammond had 16 points, while Jure Span contributed 10 points, six assists and four steals. Bryson Mozone posted 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

VMI shot 48 percent (10-21) from behind the three-point stripe, while holding USC-Upstate to just 24 percent (5-21).

The Keydets (3-1) travel to 10th-ranked Kentucky University for a tough non-conference test Sunday at 6 p.m.

Postgame: VMI coach Dan Earl:

“”It wasn’t always the prettiest out there, but I thought our guys fought. We made a big defensive change in the second half – Coach Kevin Carroll brought that up and I think it really messed with their rhythm a little bit. Give credit to Upstate. They played a very good game and played strong and they were beating us on the boards, but at the end of the day we made some shots.”

“Jake Stephens made some shots and we had some other guys come in and put the ball in the basket. We talk to the guys all the time about everything mattering and it ended up we had to play the whole 40 minutes tonight.”

“It was good to see Sarju (Patel) out there and he was hobbling a little bit and I was proud of him giving the minutes that he did coming back from an ankle injury.”

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