VMI falls at Western Carolina, 73-53

vmiSenior guard Rhett Harrelson tallied a game-high 23 points and keyed a late first half scoring run to push Western Carolina past VMI 73-52 Saturday afternoon in Southern Conference basketball action at Ramsey Center.

Harrelson nailed six three pointers including three in a row to trigger a 20-3 spurt late in the first half that tilted the game toward the home team. The Catamounts (6-9, 1-1 SoCon) also got double figures scoring from senior guard Mike Brown (17) and senior forward Torrion Brummitt who also logged a double-double with 11 points 10 rebounds.

Junior guard Julian Eleby led VMI with 13 points and junior guard Q.J. Peterson battled through a first half ankle injury to finish with 10 points over 22 minutes of action, but the Keydet backcourt tandem was limited to a combined 8-of-24 shooting from the floor. Freshman forward Austin Vereen equaled his career-high with nine points and added five rebounds for the Keydets (5-9, 0-3 SoCon).

The Keydets shot 33.9% from the floor for the game including 4 of 16 beyond the arc.

Western Carolina converted 15 of 22 from the charity stripe for the game and shot 53.6% from the field in the first half (25-53) before cooling down to 40% in the second half.

The Catamounts also capitalized on 14 VMI turnovers converting them into 21 points and held an 11-2 edge in fast break points.

VMI held its only lead early in the game (3-2) on a 3-pointer by Peterson before a paint jumper by Brummitt quickly pushed the Catamounts back on top. The game remained close for the first 12 minutes of the opening half with the Keydets battling back from a 7-point deficit to twice tie it, the latest on a Phillip Anglade dunk of a feed from freshman guard Adrian Rich at the 7:27 mark to knot it at 17-17.

Harrelson then embarked on his perimeter shooting barrage dropping in three straight treys that were followed up by consecutive layups by Brown, Elijah Pughsley and Brown again before Harrelson capped the 20-3 spurt with another 3-pointer. A VMI scoring drought over five minutes late in the first ended with a Peterson jumper at the 1:04 mark before intermission.

Western Carolina took a 39-24 halftime into the second frame and never saw its advantage shrink into single digits.  VMI pulled within 43-33 after a 3-pointer by Peterson at the 15:00 mark, but could come no closer the rest of the way.

The Catamounts gradually built back the lead that grew to as much as a 28-point bulge when Harrelson converted one of two free throws with 3:07 left in regulation.

VMI was without the services of senior guard Tim Marshall who was serving a one-game league suspension following a flagrant 2 foul handed out in last Tuesday’s home game against Wofford. Western Carolina was without the services of senior forward Justin Browning who was suspended one game for a violation of athletic department rules.

The Catamounts held a 38-36 advantage on the boards despite VMI’s 13-9 edge on the offensive glass. Western Carolina also blocked seven shots led by Brummitt with four rejections.

VMI will play the second of three consecutive conference road games at ETSU Monday night in a game that has had its tipoff moved to 6 p.m. at Freedom Hall in Johnson City.


Press Conference: VMI head coach Dan Earl

“It was tough and a combination of factors. They made some big shots in that spurt particularly Harrelson who made some deep threes and got open over and over a couple of times. Again, the wind kind of came out of our sails and you got to compete against that. You got to fight against that-guys are going to make shots, so you can’t feel sorry for yourself and you have to continue to compete. We didn’t play the way we are capable of playing.”

“It was another one of these instances where a team starts to pressure us a little bit and they were fairly successful with their pressure, so they started pressuring us more and instead of us attacking – we want to attack pressure and go the basket and make plays – we were back on our heels. Unfortunately, we didn’t handle the pressure well.

“Guys were going to the offensive side of the glass hard, but it’s both sides of the ball. It’s defensively rebounding the ball as well – taking care of the ball – and playing defense.”

“You can’t dwell on losses or wins, you can’t get too up or too down at this level. Certainly you want to learn from them and we’ll try to learn and grow from this and move on and get better and that’s what we’ll do.”

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