VMI knocks off Presbyterian in OT

Stan Okoye had a season-high 27 points, Keith Gabriel tied the game in the final moments of regulation and D.J. Covington scored four crucial points in overtime, helping the VMI Keydets defeat the Presbyterian College Blue Hose, 78-70 in overtime, Saturday afternoon at Cameron Hall.

Trailing by nine with five minutes to go, PC (7-6, 1-2 Big South) went on a 13-2 run and held a two-point lead with 56 seconds remaining in regulation, 63-61. After VMI (6-7, 1-2) missed the front end of a one and one, just its third free throw miss of the game, Al’Lonzo Coleman missed two free throws for the visitors as well. Gabriel answered by scoring on a floater in the lane with 22 seconds to go, squaring the contest at 63, and the Blue Hose could not score on their final possession as the game went to overtime.

In the extra frame, Covington and Okoye combined for the first five points, giving VMI a 68-63 advantage. Josh Johnson hit a jumper for PC, but on the next Keydet possession, Okoye found Covington cutting down the lane for a thunderous dunk, putting the Keydets back up five. The Blue Hose could not get closer than four the rest of the way, as the home team iced the game with free throws down the stretch.

The contest was VMI’s first overtime game since Dec. 2, 2010, and the Keydets’ first OT victory since Feb. 4, 2009, a 110-106 road win over the Winthrop Eagles. The Keydets shot 26 for 47 (55.3%) from the floor, led by Okoye’s efforts and 17 points from Gabriel. The result snapped a three-game winning streak for the Blue Hose, who were led by Khalid Mutakabbir’s 24 points.

VMI started its first contest in nine days well, beginning the game on a 14-7 run. The home team was helped by four PC turnovers in the first six minutes, but over the first eight minutes, the Blue Hose hit four three-pointers to keep the game close. Josh Johnson hit the fourth of that quartet at the 11:38 mark, drawing PC to within 16-13, and one minute later, the visitors scored their first two-point basket of the day, making it a one-point game.

After several minutes of back and forth play, Okoye hit a three-pointer at the 6:47 mark, starting a stretch of seven straight points by the junior forward. Glasgow converted a layup and Gabriel hit a three-pointer to cap the 12-1 run, and with 4:47 left in the half, VMI held a 34-20 edge.

The Blue Hose came right back, launching a 10-0 run of their own to close within four, but Jordan Weethee hit a three-pointer with 1:15 left in the half, putting VMI back up by seven. The Keydets scored five of the half’s final six points, and led 39-31 at halftime.

The home team had scorched the nets over the first 20 minutes, hitting 15 of 25 shots from the floor (60%), but PC had made 6 of 12 three-point attempts (50%) to keep the game close. VMI held an 18-4 edge in points in the paint, and also had a 19-2 edge in bench scoring.

VMI committed three offensive fouls over the first five possessions of the second half, but PC could only whittle the lead by two, closing to within six with 16:30 to go. The next several minutes were a back and forth battle, with neither team able to fully establish momentum until the Blue Hose posted a 9-4 run, capped by a Mutakabbir jumper with 8:52 left.

The basket pulled the Blue Hose within three, 53-50, but VMI scored the game’s next six points, including a Rodney Glasgow three with 5:43 to play, and took a 59-50 advantage. That set the stage for the visitors’ late-game, 13-2 run, and the resultant game-ending excitement.

The win is VMI’s first Big South win of the year, and with a 44-4 edge in bench scoring, marked the team’s fifth straight game with at least 40 points off the bench. PC held a 35-29 edge on the glass, but preseason All-Big South selection Coleman fouled out early in overtime, helping VMI hold a 4-2 rebounding edge in the extra frame. VMI hit 20 of 23 free throws (87%) as well.

VMI basketball will return to action Monday evening, taking on Gardner-Webb at 7 p.m. at Cameron Hall.

Quotes – VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom

“The guys played hard. They followed the game plan pretty much to specifications. We got into foul trouble late, but it was totally a team win. Everyone who took the floor contributed in some way.”

“We played through some tough things in the second half. PC made a good run. When they went up two with a minute left in regulation, we were able to make some plays going to the rim.”

“I thought Rodney Glasgow and D.J. Covington stepped up in overtime, and I was proud of them. Stan (Okoye) almost equaled today what he had against PC last year. I was thrilled for the guys, because they worked very hard this week in practice.

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