LEXINGTON, Va. - The VMI Keydets outscored the Campbell Camels by 25 points in the second half, shooting 62.5 percent from the field in the process, en route to a 76-57 win in Big South basketball action Wednesday night at Cameron Hall in Lexington, Va. With the victory, the Keydets win their fifth straight game and move into sole possession of first place in the Big South's North Division, thanks to their first 4-0 conference start since the 2008-09 season.
After a sluggish first half that saw VMI (9-7, 4-0 Big South) trail by six at the break, Stan Okoye converted two free throws at the 12:52 mark to give the Keydets the lead for good, 43-41. Campbell (8-10, 3-1 BSC) stayed close and was within four with 10 minutes to go, but VMI broke the game open with a 13-0 run, helped by six points from Rodney Glasgow during the spurt. The junior capped the push with a three-pointer with 6:46 to go, giving VMI a 17-point lead and CU could get no closer than 14 the rest of the way.
VMI's fifth straight win, the team's longest streak since 2010-11, came on the strength of the dominant second half performance that saw the Keydets outscore CU 49-24 to complete only the second VMI rally from a halftime deficit this season. The Keydets not only shot 15 of 24 overall (62.5%), but went 7 of 10 (70%) from three-point range after hitting just 8 of 27 (29.6%) in the first 20 minutes. Overall, D.J. Covington led the Keydets with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Glasgow added 16 and six assists. Okoye was held without a field goal for the first 25:40 of the game, but still finished with 17 points and five rebounds.
The VMI defensive effort also went up in the final 20 minutes, with the Keydets holding the Camels to a 10 of 30 effort (33.3%) from the floor. That was the Keydets' second-best half of the year against a Division I opponent, trailing only the second half against Elon on Nov. 24, when VMI held the Phoenix to 32.6% in the final half.
It was the Camels who jumped out to the early lead, starting the game on a 6-0 run. The Keydets opened the contest just 2 of 9 from the floor, and CU raced out to a nine-point lead, 26-17, after a Darian Hooker basket at the 6:43 mark. Five straight points by Covington helped VMI cut the lead to five, but it was a Brian Brown triple that accounted for the halftime score, 33-27.
CU was strong from the field in the opening period, going 13 for 28 (46.4%) and 5 of 6 from the charity stripe. The Keydets missed 10 of their 12 three-point attempts, and the Camels held Okoye, the Big South's leading scorer, to two points on 0 of 6 shooting.
It was VMI, however, who came out on fire in the second half. An 8-0 run to start the period, highlighted by Nick Gore's three-pointer and crucial steal, gave the Keydets their first lead of the night, 35-33, and fired up the Cameron Hall crowd. Campbell would retake the lead at 37-35 moments later, but Tim Marshall and Okoye hit three-pointers on back to back possessions to make it VMI 41, CU 37 with 14:27 to go.
The Camels had one more tie left, knotting the score at 41-all, but the two Okoye free throws with 12:52 to go broke the deadlock and VMI would never trail again. The visitors stayed close for two minutes, pulling within four on a Reco McCarter basket at the 10-minute mark, but Okoye scored on VMI's next possession to start the game-turning run. When the spurt was over, the Keydets had a 17-point cushion with 6:46 to go. CU could get no closer than 14 the rest of the way.
VMI wrapped up the evening 23 of 51 from the floor (45.1%) and 9 of 22 (40.9%) from distance. CU was held to 23 of 58 (39.7%) overall and just five of 16 from three-point range (31.3%). Perhaps the final key disparity came at the foul line, where VMI held its opponent under 10 free throw attempts for the third straight game. CU was just 6 of 8 at the charity stripe (75%), compared to a 21 of 31 (67.7%) night for the home team.
In addition to Okoye, Covington and Glasgow, Brown chipped in 11 points, including a trio of three-pointers. Finally, Okoye's five rebounds moved him into a tie with former Liberty Flame Jesse Sanders for 10th on the Big South's all-time rebound list (815).
VMI basketball will return to action Saturday, as the Keydets travel to Conway, S.C. to take on the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Game time is set for 11 a.m., and the contest will be televised on ESPNU.
QUOTES - VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
"We played so poorly in the first half, but we didn't play bad defensively. They hit some tough shots and we couldn't make anything. I thought that was easily Campbell's best defensive half from what I had seen on film. D.J. Covington was our only source of scoring in the first half."
"In the second half, we said let's win the first four minutes - and the first four minutes led to the next."
"In the second half, the lead got to 10 and then Rodney (Glasgow) stepped up and made three free throws at the eight-minute mark. Then we ran pitch back to him and he made it, I really thought that was key and put us up 17. He made plays. Brian Brown hit some timely shots. They did a great job guarding Stan (Okoye) and really made him work."
"D.J (Covington) was stellar. He certainly stepped up in the second half and changed some shots and got eight rebounds."
"All this means is we are 4-0 with a chance to go 5-0. It makes us want to jump on the bus and go to Coastal and be very business-like."