VMI tops Winthrop, now 3-0 in Big South
Stan Okoye had his second straight double-double, posting 25 points and 13 rebounds, and the VMI Keydets used a 17-4 second half run to break open the game and defeat the Winthrop Eagles, 72-54, in Big South basketball action Saturday afternoon at Cameron Hall in Lexington, Va. With the win, VMI (8-7) goes to 3-0 in Big South play for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
After a slugfest of a first half that saw the Keydets nurse a three-point lead into the locker room, Winthrop’s (6-9, 0-3 Big South) Larry Brown converted a layup 2:13 into the second half to make it a two-point game, 38-36. Brian Brown then hit a three-pointer on VMI’s next trip down the floor, launching the game-breaking run that he also capped with a triple. That shot came with 11:18 remaining and put the Keydets up by 15, 55-40.
Winthrop pulled back within 10 with 8:31 to go, but a 10-0 run pushed the margin to 20 for the first time and put to rest any thoughts of an Eagle comeback.
The second half saw the Keydets excel on both sides of the ball, as the VMI defense held WU to just 22 second-half points. That mark was the lowest point total in either half by a VMI opponent this year, while the Keydet offense shot 14 of 21 (66.7%) from the field over the final 20 minutes, including 5 of 6 (83.3%) from downtown. The Keydets also took advantage of 17 Winthrop turnovers, posting a 28-7 edge in points off those miscues.
Okoye’s double-double was his second-straight and fifth of the year, as the Big South’s leading scorer passed Chavis Holmes ’09 for fifth on VMI’s all-time field goals made chart, and also surpassed Ron Carter ’78 for fifth on the Institute’s all-time rebound list. In addition, Okoye became the 11th player in Big South history with 800 career rebounds.
Dorian Albritton chipped in a career-high 14 points, 12 of which came on his 4 of 5 day from beyond the arc, while D.J. Covington had four steals and four blocks to go along with his 12 points. Gideon Gamble was the only WU player in double figures, scoring 16.
After back and forth play early in the first half, the Keydets used an 11-2 run to take their first double digit lead of the night, 26-16, with 9:10 left in the opening period. Albritton and Okoye combined for nine of the spurt’s 11 points, but Winthrop came right back with a 14-5 push of its own, doing so over the next seven-plus minutes to cut the lead back to one, 31-30, with 1:52 left in the half. The visitors could not get the lead back, however, and the home team was able to push the lead back to three at halftime, 35-32.
Winthrop shot the ball well in the opening half, hitting 13 of 28 (46.4%) from the floor as compared to the Keydets’ 12 of 33 (36.4%) effort. The difference was turnovers, however, as VMI took advantage of 11 WU miscues and turned them into 17 points. Okoye led all first half scorers with 13 points, while Gamble posted 12 for Winthrop.
The teams traded points early in the second half, with Brown’s layup cutting it to a two-point game, 38-36, with 17:47 remaining. That set the stage for Brown’s triple and the game-deciding run, which the sophomore capped with the second three-pointer at the 11:18 mark. Winthrop could go no closer than 10 the rest of the way, as the Keydets pushed the lead as high as 21, 70-49, before winding up with the 72-54 victory.
The Keydets concluded the game 26 of 54 from the floor (48.1%), led by Albritton’s 5 for 6 and Okoye’s 8 for 16, and shot a season-best 50 percent (11 of 22) from three-point range. Winthrop shot 23 of 56 (41.1%) overall and 5 of 13 (38.5%) from distance, but the Eagles attempted just five foul shots all afternoon, including only one in the second half.
VMI basketball will return to action Wednesday, taking on the Fighting Camels of Campbell University in a Big South contest at Cameron Hall. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
QUOTES – VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
“I couldn’t be more proud of the guys. Their focus and concentration since the start of conference play last week has been really good.”
“It’s nice to work that hard and be that focused and get wins. We really stepped up the second half, really guarded and were able to hold them to 22 second half points.”
“We played with the lead today and kept growing the lead rather than playing the scoreboard. I was really pleased how we finished out the game.”
“Stan Okoye is certainly playing as well as anybody in the league right now.”
“In the first half, we felt like we didn’t get any easy baskets, but in the second half, I thought our pressure kind of wore on them a little bit.”