VMI falls just short against Chattanooga, 71-70

vmi basketballA last-second shot to win hit the rim and bounced off Thursday evening as the VMI men’s basketball team was defeated 71-70 by visiting Chattanooga in a Southern Conference matchup.

It is the Keydets’ fourth game this season decided by under five points, and VMI is 0-4 in those contests.

The Mocs led 70-68 with 4:25 on the game clock before the defenses took over, allowing only three points in the remainder of the contest. UTC led 71-68 with 17 seconds left but sophomore Myles Lewis stole the ball and fed junior Garrett Gilkeson for a layup to make it a one-point game. Chattanooga missed the ensuing 1-and-1 after a VMI foul, giving the Keydets the ball back with the chance for the win. A VMI three-pointer with one second left didn’t fall and the Mocs hung on for the win.

“A hard-fought game. Credit Chattanooga,” VMI coach Dan Earl said. “They pulled it out when they needed to with some big plays. I was proud of our guys responding in the second half. The key to the game was not guarding the three-point line. They had 10 threes in the first half and that just can’t happen. I told our guys that we shouldn’t be allowed to have them with 10 threes in the first half and the two in the second half. But I was proud of them making the adjustment and guarding the three-point line after halftime. You just can’t dig yourselves a hole by giving up those threes.”

Sophomore Bubba Parham scored a game-high 21 points, 14 in the first half, hitting four three-pointers. Lewis posted 15 points and five rebounds, while Sarju Patel had 14 points and six boards. Jake Stephens delivered 12 points and four caroms.

Thomas Smallwood came off the bench to score a team-best 16 points for Chattanooga with six rebounds. Ramon Vila, David Jean-Baptiste and Donovann Toatley each had 11 points and combined for 11 boards. Kevin Easley added eight points and seven rebounds.

The Keydets started out both halves on fire. VMI opened leads of 6-0 (all six from Parham) and 13-5 to start the game before Chattanooga chipped away. UTC led 45-41 at intermission, but VMI opened a 58-51 lead with a 17-6 run in the first five minutes of the half.

The contest was 45 minutes late tipping off due to a mechanical failure with the lighting system.

The Keydets (7-16/1-10 SoCon) host Samford University Saturday at 1 p.m. in another SoCon clash. Chattanooga’s record after the game is now 11-14 and 6-6 in league play.

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