RICHMOND, Va - VMI trimmed a 23-point deficit to eight late in the second half, but the VCU Rams prevailed, 75-65, in Friday night college basketball action before 7,637 fans at Siegel Center.
The victory extended VCU’s win streak to three and moved the Rams to 8-5 while VMI had its two-game win streak snapped and fell to 5-6.
First half turnovers proved costly to VMI as the Keydets saw VCU convert 10 miscues into in a 15-2 advantage in points off turnovers before intermission.
The Rams built a 39-31 lead at the break and appeared poised to slam the door shut at the 8:09 mark on a pair of free throws by VCU forward Justin Tillman to make it 63-40.
A trapping defense helped VMI to several scoring opportunities and the visitors went on a 25-10 tear over the next eight minutes. Only :35 remained on the clock, however, after Keydet forward Fred Iruafemi drained two free throws to pull VMI within 73-65 and the Rams withstood the charge to move to 6-2 at home.
Tillman posted his 20th career double-double game with 19 points, 11 rebounds and was joined in the scoring effort by guard De’Riante Jenkins who tallied 17 points including four 3-pointers and also dished out six assists.
Balanced scoring again carried the Keydets through the contest as all ten players who saw action scored. Sophomore guard Garrett Gilkeson led the team with 12 points – his second double digit scoring effort of the season. Freshman guard Bubba Parham and junior forward Austin Vereen each chipped in nine points.
The Keydets were held to 25.9% shooting in the first half but improved to 42.9% in the second half thanks in part to 12 assists after intermission. VCU hit 47.4% of its shots for the game but cooled down after firing at a 53.3% clip in the first half.
Both teams performed well at the free throw line with VMI knocking in 12 of 13 and VCU connecting on 12 of 15 shots from the stripe.
Sophomore led Tyler Creammer led VMI on the boards with eight rebounds.
VMI returns to action Saturday, December 30 when it opens Southern Conference play in Lexington against Furman. Tipoff is 1 pm and for tickets go to www.vmitickets.com.
GAME NOTES – The game was the 108th consecutive sellout at the Siegel Center which included among its spectators Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam, VMI Class of 1981…freshman guard Greg Parham, a two-time second team All-Metro Richmond pick from Monacan High School, returned home and played 17 minutes and scored five points…VMI has used the same starting lineup for all 11 games…Vereen’s three 3-pointers game him five games this season where he has hit five or more treys.
HEAD COACH DAN EARL – “We fought until the end and I think that’s a good characteristic of this team and it shows a good sign. We’re trying to get better every time out and gain experience and at the end we were showing some fight. We were trapping, getting some turnovers, and finally started to make some shots and I thought we were more aggressive. Unfortunately, early on we didn’t make shots and early on we weren’t aggressive enough. It looked like we were trying to hold the ball until the last few seconds of the shot clock, but that was not the plan at all. Some of it was perhaps being in this environment – good crowd, the lights are on – and they (VCU) are long and do a good job of trying to turn you over. We had too many unforced turnovers and their transition defense really hurt us. We have to get better so it doesn’t get away from us like it did.”