LEXINGTON, Va. - The Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs used a 15-2 second-half run to take a double digit lead and held off a comeback attempt by the VMI Keydets to prevail, 63-49, in Big South basketball action Saturday afternoon at Cameron Hall in Lexington, Va.
After Gardner-Webb (11-10, 3-4 Big South) took an eight-point lead at halftime, the Keydets (9-10, 4-3 Big South) opened the second half with an 8-0 run to tie the score, 34-34, with 18:26 left in the contest. VMI then scored just two points over the next 11:05 as GWU notched 15 of the next 17 points to take a 13-point lead, 49-36, with 9:01 to play.
The Keydets used an 11-2 run, including nine points from Tim Marshall, to make it a four-point game, but Gardner-Webb scored the next six points to retake a double-digit lead and the Keydets could get no closer than eight the rest of the way.
VMI's 49 points marked the lowest Keydet point total at Cameron Hall since the Keydets' first game under Duggar Baucom, the 2005-06 season opening 53-49 loss to Army. The Keydets were led by Marshall and Okoye, who scored 14 points apiece, but just four players found the scoreboard for VMI in the conference setback. VMI held the lead just once, a one-point advantage at the 7:40 mark. Prior to Saturday's game, the Keydets had led by at least three points in every game this season.
The team also attempted a season low four free throws, going 1 for 4 and marking the first time this year that VMI failed to get into double digits in free throw attempts. It was the lowest number of free throws, both made and attempted, under Coach Baucom, surpassing a 2 of 7 performance Nov. 25, 2007 at Ohio State. In addition, Gardner-Webb held a 34-16 edge in points in the paint during the afternoon's proceedings.
The Runnin' Bulldogs came out strong, opening the game on a 15-3 run that was capped by two Kevin Hartley free throws at the 15:26 mark, but the Keydets chipped away. The lead went under double digits, 19-11, at the 12:05 mark, and VMI would go on to post a 19-6 run to take its only advantage of the day, 22-21, on a Marshall triple with 7:40 remaining in the half.
Just 26 seconds later, Tyler Strange of GWU answered with a triple of his own, giving the visitors a lead they would not relinquish at 24-22 and starting an 11-0 run to put the Runnin' Bulldogs back up by 10, 32-22, with just 1:13 showing on the clock. The Keydets scored four of the half's last six points, however, and went into halftime down 34-26 despite shooting just 11 for 31 (35.5%) in the opening half, including 3 of 15 from three-point range (20%).
The home team came out strong in the second half, scoring the first eight points to tie the game, 34-34 and electrify the 3,320 fans in attendance. Rodney Glasgow had five of the eight markers, but his basket at 18:26 would be VMI's only field goal for four-plus minutes.
A D.J. Covington basket at 14:18 was the only Keydet hoop until the 7:21 mark, when Marshall hit a three-pointer to cut the GWU lead down to 10, 49-39. The freshman would hit a trio of triples over the next 1:51, helping VMI reduce the lead to four with 5:30 to go, but GWU pushed the edge to 10 once more with a 6-0 run to put the game away. The Runnin' Bulldogs were led by Tashan Newsome's 13 points, all in the second half, while Kevin Hartley had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
VMI wrapped up the contest 20 of 53 from the floor (37.7%) and just 8 of 30 from the three-point line (26.7%). Gardner-Webb went just 3 of 11 (27.3%) from distance, but hit 25 of 51 field goals overall (49.0%) in the victory. Okoye's 14 points moved him into 11th place on the Big South's all-time list, passing Whit Holcomb-Faye of Radford, while D.J. Covington chipped in 11 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.
VMI basketball will return to action Wednesday, taking on the Radford Highlanders in Radford, Va. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
QUOTES - VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
"They came in and took the fight to us from the very first play. And we never responded. We got it back to 22-21 in the first half and got to feeling good about ourselves and didn't think we had to guard or rebound anymore, and we go down eight."
"Two successive Saturdays where we've scored 49 points. You can blame it on the road, but this was in front of 3,300 people at home. My apologies to them. It certainly wasn't pretty from the outset."
"We weren't tough enough to maintain (our runs). It's easy to play when you're behind because there's no consequence. The consequence of not playing hard is that you are going to lose. So you play hard, make a few shots, make a run, but tough teams once they use all that energy to get a run, then they take advantage and try to win the game."
"Credit Gardner-Webb. They played excellent pressure. I know it looked like we hadn't prepared for a zone, but we practiced against it for two days knowing that they would probably play a zone. We executed a few times and when we did, we shots layups, but then we missed layups and we missed dunks."
"I don't think I've ever had a team in this era get to the line four times- and then we make one of four."
"We just have to be focused and do our assignments. It doesn't get any easier and Radford will be ready to play."