HIGH POINT, N.C. - The High Point Panthers shot nearly 60 percent from the field and scored 58 points in the paint, en route to a 96-69 win over the VMI Keydets Wednesday evening at the Millis Center in High Point, N.C.
After a quick start, the Keydets (9-9, 4-2 Big South) held an 18-17 lead with 12:57 left in the first half. High Point (9-9, 4-2 Big South) promptly went on a 20-4 run to take the lead for good, and would go on to hand VMI its largest margin of defeat in a conference game since Dec. 3, 2011 at Charleston Southern.
The Panthers were led by Allan Chaney, who had 19 points, six rebounds and three steals, while Stan Okoye led all scorers with 20 markers, but fouled out with seven minutes remaining. Both teams posted four players in double figures, but High Point outscored VMI 41-15 in bench points to account for virtually the entire 27-point margin of victory.
The story of the night was shooting, as both teams posted high field goal percentages in the opening half. High Point built its lead by going 24 of 36 for 66.7%, while the Keydets were not far behind at 16 for 30 (53.3%). The Panthers then cooled off in the second half, slipping to an even 50 percent, but VMI made just 9 of 28 from the floor in the final 20 minutes and also struggled at the charity stripe, hitting just 8 of 25 (32.0%) second half free throws as the home team pulled away for the victory.
After the first seven-plus minutes saw four ties and a trio of lead changes, it was a basket by HPU freshman John Brown that provided the night's final lead change, and gave High Point a 19-18 lead at the 12:48 mark. The Keydets were then held to just two points over the next 4:54, allowing the Panthers to grab a 34-22 lead, and the home team's Devante Wallace hit a three-pointer at the 6:06 mark to make it a 37-22 contest.
The Keydets would get back to within 11 on a pair of occasions, but High Point took a 53-39 lead to the locker room at halftime. A 22-3 edge in first half bench points and scoring 32 of their 53 points in the paint had provided the lift for the home team.
VMI scored the first basket of the second half to draw within 12, but HPU answered with a 10-2 run and went up by 20, 63-43. The Keydets could get no closer than 18 the rest of the way, as the Panthers gradually extended their lead. HPU took its largest lead of the night, 92-57, with 3:39 to go, but the Keydet reserves outscored the home team 12-4 the rest of the way to account for the final margin.
The night's final shooting percentages saw the Panthers wrap up the contest at 41 for 70 from the field (58.6%) and 6 of 17 (35.3%) from three-point range. High Point also rebounded to go 7 of 9 from the foul line in the second half, after making just one of five in the first period, and finished at 8 for 14 (57.1%).
The Keydets, meanwhile, stayed in the game in the first half thanks to solid shooting, but went ice cold in the second half, especially from the free throw line. While the overall field goal percentages (43.1% overall, 42.1% from three-point range) remained respectable, VMI wrapped up the contest hitting just 11 of 34 from the foul line (32.4%).
In addition to Okoye, the visitors saw D.J. Covington, Brian Brown and Tim Marshall all finish in double figures, while Okoye and Phillip Anglade led the team with six rebounds apiece. The Keydets would finish the game with 13 turnovers to just five for High Point. With four steals on the night, VMI fell to 2-6 on the year when posting seven or fewer steals in a game and 1-4 in contests in which they commit more turnovers than their opponent.
Finally, High Point's victory snapped the Keydets' seven-game winning streak against the Panthers.
VMI basketball will return to action Saturday, as the Keydets come home to Lexington to face the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs at Cameron Hall. Game time is set for 1 p.m.
QUOTES - VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
"Credit Scott (Cherry). He had his guys ready to play. They certainly played well tonight."
"They had some easy early baskets. They went up 10 and I thought we would respond, but we didn't."
"I think free throws on the road are just a sign of mental toughness. We went to PC and made free throws to close out the game. The last two games - it's just mental. The goal is not moving. It's just 15 feet away and 10 feet high. To shoot 34 on the road is unheard of, but to make just 11 is even more absurd."
"For the second game in a row, our energy wasn't there. When we have energy, we're pretty good. When we don't have energy, we're horrible."