VMI posts Big South win

Senior guard Austin Kenon and junior guard Keith Gabriel combined for 48 points to lead VMI over UNC Asheville, 83-72, Friday afternoon at the Justice Center.

VMI secured its first Big South Conference win of the year and snapped a 13-game UNC Asheville homecourt winning streak. The Keydets prevailed for the fourth time in its last five trips to the Justice Center floor. VMI moved to 8-5, 1-2 BSC while Asheville slipped to 6-7, 1-2 BSC.

Kenon sparked several VMI runs with perimeter shooting and hit five 3-pointers to finish with a game-high 26 points while Gabriel slashed his way to a 22-point outing hitting 8- of-16 attempts from the floor.

Sophomore forward Stan Okoye added 10 points and seven rebounds, but was limited to 19 minutes of action due to foul trouble. Freshman point guard Rodney Glasgow scored nine points, all in the second half, and sophomore forward Nick Gore grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

Sophomore forward Jaron Lane and sophomore center D.J. Cunningham shared Asheville team scoring honors with 15 points while Cunningham hauled in 11 boards before retiring with a knee injury midway in the second half. Bulldog guards J.P Primm and Chris Stephenson each added 12 points for the hosts.

VMI closed out the calendar year with a contest that saw nine ties and seven lead changes before Kenon converted one of two free throws to break a 67-67 at the 5:59 mark of regulation. The point keyed a decisive 11-2 run that helped the Keydets maintain the lead the rest of the way as the Bulldogs failed to convert a field goal over the last 3:48 of the second half, missing their last seven shots from the floor and finishing with just two buckets over the last seven minutes of the game .

A D. J. Covington layup with 3:02 left pushed the VMI advantage to 78-69, and the Bulldogs could not close within seven points down the stretch. Guard Matt Dickey trimmed the deficit to 78-71 after knocking a pair of free throws, but Kenon followed with three free throws under the two-minute mark to give VMI its first double-digit lead of the afternoon, 81-71, with 1:24 left.

VMI shot 47% from 3-point range in the first half with 7-of-15 finding mark from long range and helping the Keydets to rally from an eight-point deficit to build a 45-37 halftime lead using scoring runs of 17-7 and 6-0 to fuel the rally. Kenon and Gabriel combined for 31 points in the opening half and the Keydets held an 11-4 advantage in points off turnovers and 12-2 margin in fast break points.

VMI saw it halftime lead shrink to 3 points twice over the first four minutes of the second half, but pushed the lead up to nine, 58-49, when Gabriel converted a layup at the 12:34 mark. What was then VMI’s largest lead of the game at that point quickly evaporated over the next two minutes as the Bulldogs went on a 11-0 tear and and retook the lead on a John Williams dunk with 9:21 left. The Keydets never trailed by more than a trio of points, however, and answered immediately with a Kenon trey, a Gore jumper, and Kenon’s free throw to push VMI on top for good.

VMI outrebounded the Bulldogs, 47-39, for the game and had six players with five or more boards. VMI is now 6-0 when outrebounding opponents this season.

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