LEXINGTON, Va. - Stan Okoye had 30 points and 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the year, but Javonte Green poured in 20 markers and grabbed 16 boards to lead the Radford Highlanders to an 82-79 win over the VMI Keydets in Big South basketball action Wednesday night at Cameron Hall in Lexington, Va.
With the game locked in a back and forth duel late in the second half, Green scored eight of his team-high 20 points in a 4:16 span to help RU survive VMI's final push. The Keydets' D.J. Covington tied the game with two free throws with 3:02 remaining, 74-74, but Radford (12-14, 6-6 Big South) responded with an 8-2 run to seal the victory and close out its first win over VMI (11-12, 6-5 Big South) since Feb. 2, 2010.
The contest featured 11 ties and seven lead changes, with no team leading by more than nine throughout. Okoye's 30 points also marked his fifth 30-plus point game of the season, as he passed Charleston Southern alumnus Jamarco Warren for eighth on the Big South scoring list. Covington added 16 and four blocks, while Rodney Glasgow chipped in with 15 points of his own. The Keydets attempted 29 free throws, making 21, but missed three crucial attempts in the waning minutes.
In addition to Green, Radford had three other players in double figures, led by Rashun Davis' 18 points. The Highlanders held a 39-35 edge on the glass, becoming the first team to outrebound VMI in four games, and also posted a 31-10 edge in bench scoring. The Keydets did outscore RU 38-30 in the paint, however.
Despite missing their first six three pointers, the Keydets got out of the gates well Wednesday. They held a 16-15 lead at the 10:43 mark, but promptly launched a 9-2 run that Okoye capped with VMI's first triple of the game, coming with 7:08 on the clock and giving the home team an eight-point cushion, 25-17. That lead was extended to nine less than three minutes later, when Okoye scored to make it a 31-22 contest, but the Highlanders came back with an 8-0 run to cut the margin to one, 31-30.
Radford, in fact, would go in front for the first time since the 17:28 mark when Ya Ya Anderson hit a three-pointer with 1:01 left in the half, giving the visitors a 35-33 edge. Glasgow scored on a driving leaner in the lane to make it a 35-35 game at halftime, with the visitors having scored 13 of the period's last 17 points.
The first half for VMI was all Okoye, as he had 17 of VMI's 35 points and helped the squad survive a 1 for 11 (9.1%) effort from downtown. The Keydets shot 14 for 31 (45.2%) overall in the first period, meaning that they were 13 of 20 from inside the three-point arc. Radford, in contrast, shot just 37.1% (13 of 35), but made six three-pointers to force the halftime tie.
The visitors quickly pushed the lead out to six in the second half, going up 49-43 on a Kion Brown free throw with 13:32 to play, and stretched that advantage to 57-49 on a Davis basket with 11:04 remaining. The Keydets, however, battled back. A 9-1 run over the next 2:35, capped by a Covington basket, knotted the score once again at 58-all. That set up back and forth play for the next several minutes, with neither team leading by more than four until Green converted a hoop with 5:27 left, making it a 68-64 RU lead.
Green then converted the free throw to cap a three-point play and make it a five-point game, but the Keydets rallied again. Two foul shots by Covington and a clutch three-pointer by Brian Brown tied the score, 69-69, and after a Highlander triple, Brown drilled another shot from downtown to knot the score once more, 72-all.
Green then answered with a basket to make it a two-point game, and after two missed Okoye free throws, Covington rejected a Green shot and hit two free throws to tie the contest, 74-74. That set up the game-deciding Radford run and eventual Highlander victory.
For the game, the Keydets shot 26 of 59 (44.1%) but were held to 6 of 21 from three-point range (28.6%). In contrast to the first meeting between the teams, VMI missed four of their final seven free throws and finished at 21 for 29 overall (72.4%). Radford had nearly an identical field goal percentage, 29 of 65 (44.6%), but hit 9 of 23 from downtown (39.1%) and 15 of 20 from the line (75.0%).
VMI basketball will return to action Feb. 16, as the Keydets travel to Buies Creek, N.C. to face the Fighting Camels of Campbell University. Game time is set for 2 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
QUOTES - VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
"You can't leave their best shooters open and that's what we chose to do. It's frustrating because the outcome could have been different."
"There were a bunch of critical plays. You never know what plays gets you beat. In the first half, we let R.J. Price get going, and in the second half Javonte Green had his way and we didn't have anybody tough enough to step up and guard him."
"Rashun Davis is a real good player and they have good guards. Green is an undersized post who does a great job for them. Ya Ya Anderson gives them a different look and we have to guard them. Just basic assignments."
"We had a chance to control our own fate and we didn't take advantage of it. I thought our level of energy was waning most of the night."