UNC-Asheville continues mastery of Keydets

A season-high crowd of 3,157 fans was on hand at Cameron Hall, but UNC Asheville continued to dominate in Lexington and walked away with a 100-87 victory over the VMI Keydets Saturday afternoon.

With the win, UNC Asheville won its fourth straight game at Cameron Hall and salvaged a split in the regular season series. The Keydets had earlier prevailed in Asheville on December 31, 83-72.

VMI held the lead the majority of the first half, but was outscore 55-45 in the second half in the loss. The Keydets turned the ball over 15 times in the game, and shot only 8-of-18 (44 percent) from the free-throw line in the defeat.

The Keydets (12-9, 5-6) continued their hot shooting from Thursday night’s victory, hitting five of their first seven field goals to open up with a 12-10 lead in the opening 4:48 of the contest.

After the Bulldogs (11-10, 6-5) inched closer to a 15-14 deficit at the 14:39 mark on a layup by J.P. Primm, Keydet junior Keith Gabriel, hit a runner in the lane to once again extend the Keydet advantage to 17-14 with 13:10 remaining in the opening stanza of play.

After the two sides exchanged baskets, a pair of free-throws by Asheville’s John Williams at the 10:47 mark cut the Keydet lead to one, as the tally sat at 19-18. The Bulldogs then took their first lead since the opening minute of the contest, as Williams hit a layup in the paint to give the Bulldogs the 20-19 advantage.

The lead was short lived however, as minutes later freshman point guard Rodney Glasgow drained his second 3-pointer of the contest to give VMI the 23-20 advantage. After a defensive stop, junior Michael Sparks hit a triple of his own to give VMI a 26-20 lead.

Sparks continued his hot-streak from downtown at the 7:05 mark of the half, hitting another three to give the Keydets their biggest lead of the contest at 31-21 that was coupled with a three minute Bulldog scoring draught.

However, over the next five minutes of action, Asheville outscored the Keydets 18-5 to surge ahead 39-37 at the two-minute mark and took a 45-42 lead at halftime. Four different Bulldogs scored throughout the late first half surge including six points from Jaron Lane.

Heading into the half, VMI was led by sophomore Stan Okoye, who had 11 points and seven boards at the intermission. Sparks had 10 points, including three triples, while Glasgow and Gabriel had eight points apiece. Lane led the Bulldogs at the half with 11 points, and the Bulldogs shot 54.5 percent from the field. Conversely, VMI was 16-of-33 from a 48.5 percent clip, and was 8-of-20 from 3-point land (40 percent).

VMI opened the second half firing, as Okoye hit a three to tie the game at 45-45. After Matt Dickey hit a three-ball, Kenon answered right back with one of his own to knot the game at 48-48. At the 16:11 mark of the second half, Asheville opened up its then biggest lead of the contest, as Chris Stephenson hit a jumper to give the Bulldogs a 56-50 advantage.

Following a three by VMI junior Nick Gore at the 14:04 mark, the Keydets were able to slice the Bulldog advantage to 60-59. UNCA then outscored VMI 10-1 over the next 2:31 of play to bring the score to 70-59 until the scoreless draught was snapped at the 10:33 mark by a Glasgow lay-in.

With seven minutes remaining, VMI showed some life, as freshman D.J. Covington converted a 3-point play to cut the UNCA lead to 79-69. Following a Gabriel put-back slam dunk and another slam by Covington, VMI trailed by eight points with 6:08 remaining in the contest. However, that was the closest the Keydets would get, as the Bulldogs outscored the Keydets 21-16 the rest of the way to take the 100-87 victory.

With the defeat, VMI fell to 1-5 in home conference games.

Okoye’s 19 points and 10 boards were his ninth double-double of the season. Gabriel had 18 points on 7-of-15 from the field, while Sparks had 14 points on the day on 4-of-8 shooting, giving him 35 points in the past two games. Covington was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field with 11 points, while Glasgow and Kenon each had 10 points for the hosts who shot 29-of-60 (48.3 percent) from the field and 15-of-38 (39.5 percent) from three.

Asheville had six players in double figures, as Dickey and Williams led the way with 18 points apiece. Williams also chipped in 10 boards for the double-double. The Bulldogs were aided by a scorching day from the field, shooting 60.3 percent from the field on the day including 67% in the second half.


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