VMI Keydets defeat Wofford in SoCon opener, 80-73
Senior center Jake Stephens scored 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and junior guard Kamdyn Curfman added 21 points to lead VMI over Wofford, 80-73, in the Southern Conference opener for both teams Wednesday night at Richardson Indoor Stadium.
The Keydets (8-5, 1-0) won for the fifth time over the last six games and tasted victory in Spartanburg for the second year in a row. VMI has now defeated the Terriers (8-5, 0-1) in back-to-back games for the first time since the late 90’s when the Keydets won three straight over Wofford spanning the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.
Stephens logged his fourth consecutive double-double with the effort (10th of his career) and converted 11 of 13 shots from the floor and drained two clutch free throws with 11 seconds left in regulation. He also led VMI with six assists.
Curfman delivered five 3-point shots in his fifth 20-point+ game of the year.
The Keydets also got double figures scoring from sophomore guard Trey Bonham (11 points) and junior guard Sean Conway (10 points).
VMI shot 55.2 % in the second half hitting 30-of -8 from the floor and finishing the contest at 51.7% for their best effort against a Division I opponent this year. The Keydets also nailed 13 three-pointers for their 11th game of 10 or more makes from beyond the arc this season.
Wofford, playing without leading scorer Max Klesmit, was led by junior forward B.J. Mack with 18 points while junior guard Isaiah Bigelow added 16 points – blistering the nets with four deep threes late in the second half to keep the Terriers within striking distance.
VMI collected a season-best 10 steals while Wofford committed 16 turnovers which matched a season-high.
The Keydets also secured their third road win of the season – far surpassing last year’s road win total of one.
VMI didn’t lead wire-to-wire, but held the advantage for 36:13 of regulation. The Keydets, behind a flurry of Curfman 3-pointers, hit nine of their first 14 shots from the floor to build a 25-15 lead at the midway point of the opening half, but the Terriers responded with a 12-4 run to trim the margin 29-27 following a Mack layup at 4:41. The Keydets shook off a momentary cold shooting spell that saw them miss eight of 9 3-pointer attempts and bounce back to finish with a 10-2 run over the last 4:41 of the opening half to take a 39-29 lead at the break. Stephens converted four of five shots to spark the burst and Curfman checked in at halftime with 16 points including four 3-pointers.
The Keydets nearly broke the game opening in the second half following a 9-0 scoring run that pushed the lead to 53-37 at the 13:30 mark. Wofford rallied to trim the lead to 59-53 on a Ryan Larson steal and layup with 8:41 left and later trailed 76-71 when Bigelow rammed in a 3-pointer with :40 left. The Keydets turned it over on the next possession, but the Terriers could not capitalize missing their last three 3-point attempts of regulation. Stephens and Conway both converted a pair of free throws over the last :11 to seal the game.
VMI closed out the month of December with a 4-1 record and returns home to ring in the New Year against Furman Saturday at Cameron Hall. Tipoff is 1 pm.
Postgame: VMI coach Dan Earl
“That was a nice way to start off conference play on the road against a very good Wofford team. While we didn’t execute flawlessly, I thought our effort was there from start to finish. That was great to see.
“Jake Stephens was obviously a monster tonight, with 27 pts, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists, not to mention a consistent presence on defense. Kamdyn (Curfman) played great as well with 21 (points), 5 (3FG), and 5 (assists). I thought everyone positively impacted the game, but Honor Huff and Trey Bonham made some timely plays late in the second half to help seal a hard-fought victory. The 10 steals we had really helped our cause as well.
“I am very proud of our collective effort. There is never a night off in the SoCon and we will have to start preparing for a great Furman team on Saturday.”