NORFOLK, Va. - Stan Okoye had a game-high 22 points, D.J. Covington had a double-double to go along with his seven blocks and the VMI defense forced several key turnovers in the final three minutes as the Keydets defeated the Old Dominion Monarchs, 76-71, in basketball action Wednesday night at the Constant Center in Norfolk, Va. The victory is VMI's first win over Old Dominion since Jan. 25, 1978.
On this night, ODU (1-4) had stormed back from a 13-point halftime deficit and taken a three-point lead, 64-61, with 5:19 to go. VMI's Brian Brown drilled a crucial three-pointer at the 4:17 mark, however, tying the game at 64 and marking Brown's first basket of the game. The Keydets (2-3) went up by three and forced ODU to burn a timeout with 3:05 left, but on the next Monarch possession, the VMI defense forced a turnover and Covington scored to push the lead to five, 70-65.
That was the first of four consecutive ODU turnovers as the Keydets extended the lead to seven, but two late three-pointers by the home team cut the deficit to two with 29 seconds remaining. VMI, however, executed an inbounds play brilliantly off a timeout, freeing Rodney Glasgow for a driving layup on which he was fouled. The three-point play accounted for the final margin, 76-71.
The seven blocks for Covington, two of which came after Glasgow's three-point play on ODU's final possession of the game, tied for the second-most in a game in VMI history. Lewis Preston had seven blocks against Marshall on Jan. 18, 1992, while Covington and Eric Mann are in the record books having each posted nine blocks in a VMI game. Covington's 13 points and 10 rebounds mark his second double-double on the young season, while Okoye cracked the 20-point mark for the second time this year.
The game started off as a closely contested affair, with the Monarchs taking a 6-5 lead just over four minutes in and holding that advantage until VMI went in front, 23-20, on an Okoye basket at the 9:13 mark. ODU went back in front moments later, 25-23, but the home team then went cold and the Keydets took full advantage.
Two straight three-pointers by Dorian Albritton put VMI up, 29-25, and launched a 13-0 run that Okoye capped by splitting two free throws at the 4:44 mark. The successful shot from the charity stripe put the Keydets in front, 36-25, as the Monarchs went over five minutes without a point. ODU tried to battle back, and did cut the deficit to eight with 1:51 left in the half, but the Keydets ended the period on a 7-2 run and took a 47-34 lead to the locker room.
The story of the first half was two-fold, as the Keydets held a 24-18 edge in the paint, sparked by 11 points from Covington and six from Phillip Anglade, and VMI also held a stunning 15-2 edge in points off turnovers. Coming into the game, ODU had given up no more than 19 points off turnovers in any game this season.
The home team came out with a zone defense in the second half, and it paid dividends early on. The Keydets still led by double digits, 56-46, after an Albritton three at the 14:42 mark, but VMI would not convert another field goal for over seven minutes.
ODU chipped away at the deficit gradually, as the Monarchs would go on an 11-1 run over the next 6:52. Donte Hill had five of his 13 points in the push, including a layup that would tie the game, 57-57, with 7:50 remaining. That set up a sequence that saw three ties over the next two-plus minutes, as the teams traded baskets.
It was ODU, however, that came out on top of that volley, as Dimitri Batten converted a three-point play with 5:49 left to give the Monarchs their first lead of the half. Hill scored off a turnover moments later to put ODU up, 64-61, and set the stage for VMI's late game rally.
In addition to Covington and Okoye, Rodney Glasgow finished in double figures with 13 points and also chipped in five assists. The Keydets would finish with 10 blocks, their highest total since Feb. 12 of last season against William & Mary, and would force 18 ODU turnovers. The 18 forced miscues extends a notable streak, as VMI has now forced at least 10 turnovers in 23 straight games.
ODU won the battle on the glass 47-34, but the Keydets outscored the Monarchs in the paint 40-37 and finished with a 21-5 edge in points off turnovers. The Keydets finished 29 of 60 from the field (48.3%), while ODU was 30 of 73 (41.1%) overall.
The home team was led by Batten, who had 21 points on 7 of 14 shooting, and Hill, who scored 13 points.
VMI basketball will return to action Saturday, taking on Elon at Cameron Hall. Game time is set for 5 p.m.
“I couldn't be more proud of our guys. They made some huge plays down the stretch, and we were able to turn up the defense a little bit. I was really glad with some of the hustle plays down at the end. Like I've said, we are a work in progress, but I think we've made great strides.
“The key thing was to just keep believing. We were up three and they came back and punched us in the mouth, but the guys still had the same fight on their faces and they weren't going to give up. We got our hands on a couple of loose balls and they turned into layups. Brian Brown was a guy that got us going because he made a 3 against the zone in the second half. He got it tied up.”
“I told our team at the five minute mark when we were down one, ‘Who would have thought we would get it to be playing a five minute game?’, and I asked them, ‘We would take that, wouldn't we’? They all said yes, and we made a few plays at the end.”
“Our pressure was good to us. Credit ODU, they went to zone and we got some good looks but we turned it over.”
“DJ's blocks were phenomenal. He went up and challenged everything and he played without fouling. I'm so happy for him after what he's been through.”