BUIES CREEK, N.C. - Despite a career-high 31 points and 15 rebounds by junior forward D.J. Covington, VMI fell short to Campbell University, 87-78 in a Big South North Division clash before 2,258 at Gore Arena Saturday afternoon.
The setback, VMI's third straight, dropped the Keydets to 11-13 overall and 6-6 in the Big South North Division, but they still find themselves clinging on to second place in a crowed field following Radford's 76-61 loss at Farmville Saturday afternoon.
Campbell snapped a six-game losing skid and is 11-16, 6-7 in the conference and pulled a half-game behind the Keydets.
The Camels got a career-high 27 points from redshirt sophomore guard Andrew Ryan, who dropped in 9-of-14 shots from the floor while redshirt junior forward Antwon Oliver added 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. Sophomore point guard Trey Freeman posted a double-double with 10 points and 14 assists for the hosts.
Covington was 14-of-20 from the field and added a career-high tying 15 rebounds to his career-high 31 point scoring effort that surpassed the 26 points posted against Virginia University of Lynchburg December 3 at Cameron Hall. The double-double was the sixth of the season for the Virginia Beach native.
Turnovers once again sealed VMI's fate. The Keydets committed 16 on the afternoon, but had squandered it away five times before the first media timeout of the first half. That figure doubled by the time the third media timeout had been logged in the first half. VMI had 11 turnovers by halftime, but settled down in the second half with just 5 miscues.
Senior Stan Okoye, the Big South leading scorer and rebounder, was held to 9 points-only the second time he had been held to single digits scoring this season and the fewest since a season-low seven points at Wright State December 8.
The game opened as a tight defensive scrap and despite the early VMI turnovers, the Keydets grabbed their only lead of the game when Tim Marshall hit a 3-pointer to put the visitors up 9-8 at the 14:11 mark. The Keydet advantage lasted just six seconds when Campbell junior guard Darian Hooker answered a with a two-point jumper to put the Camels up before Covington tied the game for the final time at 10-10 The Hooker bucket jump-started a 21-6 run by the home team that broke open the contest. A Freeman trey at 12:47 put the Camels up for good ,and the CU lead grew to as much as 15 points, 29-14, when Reco McCarter converted a lay-in.
VMI, which trailed Campbell at halftime in the Jan. 16 meeting won by the Keydets at Cameron Hall, would not enjoy a similar fate this afternoon after being down 40-30 at the break. The Camels, however, could not pull away by a decisive margin in the early moments of the second half despite taking its largest lead of the game at the 13:08 mark when Ryan rolled a 3-pointer from the baseline. The Keydets behind Covington scored nine straight points over the next 1:02 to pull within four points. Sophomore guard Brian Brown started the spurt with a 3-pointer from the baseline before Covington converted two consecutive lay-ins and a dunk off a steal to make it 63-59 with 5:29 left in regulation. Ryan responded for the Camels with seven straight points - two jumpers and a 3-point bomb, to hold off the Keydet charge.
Campbell would drain 14 of 18 from the free throw line over the last 2:17 to seal the outcome.
Campbell shot 48.3% (28-58) from the field for the game while the Keydets fired 28-73 from the floor for 38.4%. Campbell outscored the Keydets in bench points 60-18 and was 14-0 over the Keydets in fast break points.
VMI's junior point guard Rodney Glasgow did not start and was limited to just five minutes by a groin injury sustained in an earlier practice. Senior guard Joe Carr started in Glasgow's place.
The Keydets return home to face High Point Tuesday night in Lexington. Tip-off is set for 7 pm.
VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom - "A pitiful performance. It started early with turnovers and we were playing catch-up the entire day. "
"(Trey) Freeman had his way with us today. We did get it to four. D.J Covington did his best, but he can't do it himself. Right now we are our own worst enemy, we've had chance after chance for games that matter."