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Western Carolina holds off VMI in game of runs, 85-70

vmi_logo2In a game marked by massive momentum swings, the Western Carolina Catamounts closed the contest with on a 16-2 run and went on to an 85-70 victory over the VMI Keydets in SoCon men’s basketball action Thursday in Lexington, Va.

After trailing by as many as 14 in the first half and climbing back to take a brief lead late in the period, the Keydets fell behind by 18 points, 62-44, with 12:21 to go in the game.

A furious rally over the next six-plus minutes saw VMI post a 24-7 run to cut the lead to one, 69-68, with 5:41 to go, but Tucker Thompson of the Catamounts was fouled off an offensive rebound on the next possession and hit both free throws. That started the decisive 16-2 spurt for WCU as the Catamounts won the first game contested between the teams since 2003.

James Sinclair was the standout for the visitors, as he fell just one rebound shy of a double-double with 28 points and nine rebounds. Mike Brown added 21 markers for Western, while Tim Marshall led VMI with 15 points.

One of the key stats of the night saw WCU (10-12, 5-5 SoCon) outrebound VMI 57-29 en route to a 20-8 edge in second chance points. The Keydets had a 36-18 edge in bench scoring, but a 40-20 deficit in the paint was too much for VMI (8-14, 4-7) to overcome.

The contest began with both teams going ice cold from the floor, as neither squad scored until the 17:04 mark. Western got on the board off a three-pointer by Brown and proceeded to launch an 11-2 run, leading to a Keydet timeout at 14:47. WCU slowly extended its lead to 14 with 8:11 left in the period, but a three-pointer by Julian Eleby started a 20-5 run for the home team that gave the Keydets a 34-33 lead with 1:54 left in the half. Western closed the period by scoring seven of the last nine points to take a four-point advantage, 40-36, into the locker room at the break.

The teams were even for the first two-plus minutes of the second half, as Jordan Weethee hit a three-pointer to make it 47-44 with 17:36 to go, but the visitors answered with a 15-0 run and held VMI without a field goal for the next five-plus minutes. When the push was over, WCU led 62-44 with 12:21 remaining.

The momentum swung back to VMI with 11:35 to go, as Phillip Anglade ended the scoreless drought with a basket that cut the margin to 16. That started yet another run, this one the near-miss rally by the Keydets that was a 24-7 advantage over the next six-plus minutes. Marshall hit a trio of three-pointers during the spurt, including the last with 5:41 remaining that made it 69-68. That was as close as the Keydets would get, as Thompson hit a pair of free throws on WCU’s next possession to start the final, and decisive, run.

The Keydets finished the game 24 of 71 (33.8%) from the floor and 12 of 47 (25.5%) from three-point range, but managed only a 10 of 17 (58.8%) from the free throw line, including only 3 of 8 from the charity stripe in the second half. WCU went 31 of 64 (48.4%) from the floor, including 16 of 28 in the second half, and won despite being held to just four made three-pointers. The Catamounts were 19 of 26 (73.1%) from the free throw line.

VMI basketball will return to action Tuesday, as the Keydets play host to the Spartans of UNCG at Cameron Hall. Tip time is set for 8 p.m., and the first 1,200 non-cadet fans will receive a red VMI t-shirt for the evening’s “Red Out” promotion, courtesy of USAA.


Quotes – VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
“It started from the opening tip. We weren’t inspired as we should have been. We got down 18 and got it back to one, but we should have never been down by 18. Should have never happened.”

“James Sinclair is a good player. Any time you get out rebounded by 28 rebounds, that’s not great effort and that’s what we got bettered by tonight.”

“We had 35 missed threes and a lot of them were air balls or just horrendous shots and we were out of rebounding positioning that led to run outs on the other end and that’s what happens.”

“This was a huge game and to come out with a lackluster performance was pitiful. We knew what was on the line and to come out casual – that’s not the identity of who this team needs to be.”