PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Junior guard Tarin Smith scored 16 second-half points to help Duquesne hold off a VMI rally and post a 77-61 win over the Keydets Tuesday night at the Palumbo Center.
With the win, the Dukes moved to 2-0 under new head coach Keith Dambrot. VMI, despite outshooting and out-rebounding the home team, fell to 0-2.
The Keydets shot 50% from the floor and held a 36-33 advantage on the boards, but committed 24 turnovers that led to 27 Duquesne points. The Dukes also converted 21 of 27 free throws while VMI made just five of 13 from the charity stripe.
The Keydets placed four in double-figures and were led by freshman Jordan Ratliff with a career-high 14 points including a trio of 3-point makes. Sophomores Keith Smith and Tyler Creammer each added 13 points, a second straight career scoring game for Creammer. Freshman guard Bubba Parham hit three treys and finished with 12 points.
Duquesne was led by sophomore guard Mike Lewis II who scored 22 points – 17 before halftime.
The Keydets trailed 44-29 at the break but went on a shooting run making eight straight shots and pulled within 54-48 following a Ratliff 3-pointer at the 12:46 mark. Junior forward Austin Vereen followed with a free throw to pull the Keydets within five points and cap an 11-3 scoring run with just under 12 minutes remaining, but that would be as close as VMI would get. The Keydets came up with a stop on Duquesne’s ensuing possession but Parham’s layup attempt was blocked by forward Tydus Verhoeven and Tarin Smith pushed in consecutive 3-pointer and layup shots to turn the tide.
Duquesne held a 30-22 advantage in points in the paint and 27-11 margin in points off turnovers, but the Keydets countered with a 13-9 lead in second chance points, 15-13 edge in fast break points, and was 19-5 in bench scoring.
The Dukes led 29-25 with just under four minutes left in the opening half before breaking open the game momentarily with four 3-pointers before halftime while VMI committed four turnovers during the stretch.
Guard Garrett Gilkeson joined Smith as VMI rebounding leaders with seven each, while Smith dished out seven assists.
VMI was 8 of 16 beyond the arc.
The Keydets will next have their home opener Saturday afternoon against Presbyterian College. Tipoff is 1 pm.
VMI Head Coach Dan Earl –
“We got into foul trouble which hurt us throughout the game. I told the guys that college basketball is a tough game and you have to play defense or else you’re not going to be out there playing. You have to play hard but you have to do it without fouling. The 24 turnovers was our Achilles heel tonight. You can’t throw the ball away that many times. With all that said, I thought we competed throughout. We cut it down in the second half. We were intense and trying to compete and trying to rebound as a team despite a size disadvantage. I was proud of our guys for fighting. I think we got a little better tonight and that’s going to be our mantra.”