LEXINGTON, Va. - Julian Eleby scored 27 of his game-high 31 points in the second half and point guards Adrian Rich and Keith Smith combined for 30 markers, propelling the VMI Keydets past the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, 88-83, in non-conference basketball action Tuesday night in Lexington, Va.
The Keydets (2-7), who broke a six-game skid with the win, trailed virtually the entire game until Eleby hit a three-pointer with 7:41 left, tying the game at 63. Rich then scored on VMI's next trip down the floor, capping a 15-4 run and giving the Keydets the lead for good.
Eleby's 31 points were a season high, but it was his 27 markers in the second half that were particularly impressive. It tied John Goode (1980 vs. ETSU) for the third-most points scored by a Keydet in any half of play in program history, and was just three shy of the school record in that category.
Rich and Smith, meanwhile, both set career highs with 15 points apiece. The two combined to go 6 of 6 at the free throw line in the final 39 seconds to help ice the win.
QJ Peterson added a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, the first double-double by a VMI player this season.
Charleston Southern (4-5) was led by Armel Potter's 22-point effort.
CSU started the game hot, opening the contest with an 11-2 run and leading by as many as 12 in the opening half. VMI was able to close the period on a 16-5 run, however, and trailed by one, 39-38, at halftime.
Midway through the second half, CSU looked to be in position to pull away, with a 59-50 lead at the 11:58 mark. The VMI defense tightened, however, and after a Buc basket with 10:44 to play, would not allow another field goal for nearly seven minutes. That enabled VMI to launch the game-breaking 15-4 run and take the lead for good.
For the game, VMI finished 25 of 55 from the floor (45.5%) and 12 of 25 from long range (48%). Perhaps most critically, however, the Keydets were 26 of 30 from the foul line (86.7%), including 17 of 20 in the second half. VMI missed just one free throw in the final 14 minutes of action.
CSU was 25 of 59 (42.4%), 13 of 28 (46.4%) and 20 of 27 (74.1%), respectively, in those categories.
VMI basketball will return to action, following a one-week break for exams, Dec. 20 when the Keydets play host to Frostburg State. Tip time is set for 7 p.m.
QUOTES - VMI Head Coach Dan Earl
"It was nice to get one. It was nice to go into finals getting a win under our belt. Going back to last week, I think we were able to concentrate on ourselves for the first two days before concentrating in a tough West Virginia team. We stuck together tonight. As a coach, you get frustrated how you started the game and we gave up two threes and that's not how we wanted to start. But I thought the guys stuck together and were tough throughout. We got stops when we needed to, we grabbed rebounds when we needed to and knocked down big free throws which was a key. I'm proud of the guys."
"They had some guys that can knock down shots. I wasn't thrilled that we got down, but I was really pleased that our guys stuck together and were tough and came back."