LEXINGTON, Va. – With tournament seeding on the line, the VMI basketball team hung on to earn a 68-65 win over visiting Chattanooga Sunday afternoon on Senior Day at Cameron Hall.
The Keydets (9-20, 4-14) will enter this week’s SoCon Tournament as a No. 9 seed and will face No. 8 The Citadel Friday at 5 p.m. in Asheville, North Carolina.
With VMI up 66-65 with under a minute to play, senior Fred Iruafemi came up with two crucial offensive rebounds to allow the Keydets to maintain possession and milk the clock to end the Mocs’ furious comeback effort. Iruafemi was honored before the game for the Senior Day commemoration.
The Keydets led 37-24 at the half and built a comfortable 16-point lead with 14 minutes left in regulation, but the Mocs (9-22, 3-15) gradually chipped at the lead and nearly completed the comeback as the Keydets went cold from the field and surrendered a few turnovers.
VMI finished the game with 28 points in the paint to UTC’s 18 and logged 24 points off turnovers to the Mocs’ 10. The Keydets also had 15 second-chance points to help secure the victory.
Freshman Bubba Parham again led the Keydets with 16 points on the day on 5-11 shooting including two treys and four free throws. Iruafemi turned in 12 points in his final game at Cameron Hall while junior Austin Vereen had 11 points as the third Keydet in double digits.
Nat Dixon and Makinde London finished with 16 points apiece for the Mocs and Makale Foreman contributed 14.
Head coach Dan Earl quotes:
"It was a much needed win. We know how to keep it interesting, that's for sure. Unfortunately, we didn't execute down the stretch. I told my guys how proud I am of them, but I also asked the guys to relive some of those plays and learn from them moving forward. I am super proud of the team's effort."
"They (UTC) made some shots in the second half and some threes that hurt us."
"I was really proud of Fred Iruafemi who played his tail off today. Garrett Gilkeson had some big defensive rebounds for us and Fred had a couple of offensive tips that gave us extra possessions. It wasn't pretty, but we did enough of those little things that mattered. It was a total team effort."