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VMI loses at Coastal

Despite a spirited second half, the VMI Keydets couldn’t prevent Coastal Carolina’s basketball team from making Big South history.

The Chanticleers had three players with at least 20 points and used a 29-9 edge from the charity stripe to defeat the VMI Keydets, 99-86, in Big South basketball action at Kimble Arena Saturday in Conway, S.C.

With the win, the Chanticleers move to 22-2 overall and 13-0 in the Big South. The victory is their 20th straight, a new Big South record, and their 17th consecutive regular season conference victory, the second-longest streak in league annals. VMI falls to 12-11 and 5-8 in conference action.

The Keydets were led by Keith Gabriel, who had 21 points and six rebounds, while Austin Kenon had 18 points and Ron Burks chipped in 16 markers and grabbed eight boards. Coastal Carolina saw Chad Gray and Desmond Holloway score 22 points apiece, including Holloway’s 10 of 12 from the foul line, while Holloway also had 15 rebounds to pace the home team. Sam McLaurin added a double-double as well with 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Chants.

VMI outscored the Chanticleers 52-46 in the second half, but dug themselves too deep a hole in the first half to overcome the hosts.

Coastal Carolina kept VMI’s top two scorers in Kenon and Stan Okoye in check throughout the first 20 minutes. Kenon scored just two points in the first half before breaking out with 16 second half points, while Okoye toiled through a scoreless first half and didn’t tally until the 9:00 mark of regulation and finished with seven points and six boards.

VMI’s 3-point shooting, which was a torrid 61.5% (16-of-26) in its setback to Charleston Southern two days early, cooled down to 31.4% Saturday afternoon as the Keydets hit 11-of-35 from beyond the arc.

For only the second time this season, VMI never held a lead in the contest.

Coastal Carolina raced to a 7-0 lead after the opening tip on a Danny Nieman 3-pointer, a Kierre Greenwood layup and Nieman layup. VMI registered its first points on Rodney Glasgow’s jumper at the 17:15 mark but was outscored 11-5 over the next four minutes and fell behind by double-digits on a dunk by Chad Gray.

The Chants quickly pushed the lead to 14 before Gabriel ignited the Keydets with seven quick points off the bench to help the VMI pull within six points, 24-18, at the 10:42 mark. A 14-2 run by Coastal quickly turned the tables and the Chanticleers raced to a 20-point margin, its largest lead of the half after Gray converted a three-point play with 5:17 left.

Coastal took a 53-34 lead into the locker room after controlling the boards 34-15 and holding a 30-10 edge in points in the paint after pounding ball inside against the VMI zone. The Keydets had 15 fouls whistled against them in the first half, giving Coastal 21 opportunities from the charity stripe of which 13 were converted.

The game was on the verge of a blowout when the Chanticleers built a pair of 26 points second half leads, the latest coming at the 13:05 mark when Holloway knocked in two free throws to put Coastal Carolina up, 69-43.

VMI responded with a pair of scoring runs to keep things interesting down the stretch A trio of Burks layups jumpstarted a 16-6 spurt that shaved 10 points off the deficit over the next six minutes. VMI called a 30-second timeout to organize full-court pressure, but Nieman drained a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and Holloway followed with the jumper to push Coastal’s lead back over 20 points at 80-59 .

The Keydets rallied again with a 12-2 run to pull within 11 points with 2:35 left after Nick Gore converted one of two free throws, but could come no closer the rest of the way. Another Nieman baseline 3-pointer as the shot clock expired and 1:26 left all but sealed the Keydet’s fate.

With his 18 points, Kenon moved into the top 20-career all-time scoring list in Big South history.

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