LEXINGTON, Va. - Stan Okoye had 22 points, making him the fifth VMI player to exceed 2,000 career points, but the High Point Panthers shot 69.2% from the field in the second half and clinched the Big South North Division title, 78-67, Tuesday evening at Cameron Hall.
The Keydets (11-14, 6-7 Big South) jumped out to an early 24-11 lead, as their zone locked High Point's (16-10, 11-3 BSC) offense down early. The Panthers missed 16 of their first 17 shots as VMI raced out to the advantage, but after making a second field goal at the 10:59 mark of the opening half, exploded to shoot 26 of 39 the rest of the way. Okoye and D.J. Covington kept VMI within striking distance and the Keydets got within six twice in the closing moments, but a key sequence with 2:45 remaining ended the hopes for VMI's rally.
Derrell Edwards turned the ball over for High Point, but Okoye was stripped on a drive at the other end, spoiling VMI's chance to pull within five. John Brown converted an old-fashioned three-point play at the other end to put HPU up 10, and VMI could get no closer the rest of the way.
Okoye posted six rebounds and four steals to go with his 22 points, and joined Chavis Holmes '09, Ron Carter '78, Gay Elmore '87 and Reggie Williams '08 as the only Keydets to score more than 2,000 points in a career. He accomplished the feat with a banked-in three-pointer from the top of the key with 5:11 remaining. In addition to Okoye, Covington added 18 points and eight rebounds, including six straight at one point midway through the second half.
The loss is the Keydets' fourth straight, while High Point won its seventh consecutive game and posted its first win at Cameron Hall since March 1, 2008. The visitors were led by John Brown's 21 points and nine rebounds.
In a moment truly uncharacteristic of Cameron Hall, VMI held just a 4-2 lead at the first media timeout. The low scoring game, however, opened up from there. The Keydets went on a 9-0 run, capped by a Nick Gore basket at 11:48, to take a 13-2 edge. VMI would stay comfortably in front, and then stretch its lead slightly, including a Brian Brown three-pointer that pushed the advantage to 13, 24-11, with 4:44 showing on the clock.
Devante Wallace immediately answered with a three of his own for the Panthers, and that kick-started a 15-4 High Point run that lasted the remainder of the half. Edwards would cap that spurt with a triple with 29 seconds left, accounting for the halftime score of 28-26, VMI.
Brian Brown led the Keydets in the opening half, scoring eight points, while John Brown paced High Point with eight points as well. The Panthers hit eight of their last 13 shots in the period (62%) to rally after the 1 for 16 start, while VMI was 11 for 29 (37.9%) overall.
Gore opened the second half with two foul shots, stretching the VMI lead to four, but Allen Chaney responded with two of his own at the other end. That opened a 25-10 High Point run, during which the visitors hit nine of their 11 field goal attempts en route to a 51-38 lead with 12:48 to go. The cushion reached a game-high 14 with 11:08 to go, but Covington scored eight straight VMI points to keep the home team within shouting distance. His basket with 9:24 left cut the margin to 10, and five minutes later, the Keydets clawed within six after back to back three-pointers by Okoye, 64-58.
Edwards and Okoye traded baskets to keep the margin at six, but Dejuan McGaughy hit a three to push it back to nine. Okoye scored again, however, making it a seven-point game and setting up the game-breaking John Brown three-point play. The Panthers hit seven of their last eight foul shots to seal the victory.
For the game, High Point finished at 27 of 55 (49.1%) and 10 of 21 from three-point range (47.6%). The 10 made three-pointers were well over HPU's season average of 4.4, while the Panthers also made 14 of 20 (70%) from the foul line. VMI posted a 26 of 63 effort (41.3%) overall and 7 of 25 (28%) from downtown, while making eight of 15 at the charity stripe (53.3%).
Joe Carr had seven assists, one shy of his career high, while High Point's 23 assists were the second-highest total VMI had surrendered this season, trailing only the 24 the Panthers put up in the first meeting between the teams.
VMI basketball will return to action Thursday, as the Keydets travel to North Charleston, S.C. to face the Charleston Southern Buccaneers. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.