VMI Hits the Road For Matchup at In-State Rival Liberty
Courtesy: VMIKeydets.com

The VMI basketball team heads across the Blue Ridge Mountains for an in-state match-up on Tuesday evening against Liberty.  Tip time is set for 7 p.m. for a game that will be broadcast on the Flames Television Network. 

VMI (20-7, 11-5 Big South) enters the game on a three-game losing streak after dropping a 97-90 contest on Saturday at home against Radford.  The Highlanders out-rebounded VMI 65-26 in the game and won despite making 29 turnovers, compared to VMI's nine.  Three Highlanders posted double-doubles in the game, while Kenny Thomas led the team with 28 points, along with seven rebounds and six assists.

Liberty (20-9, 11-5 Big South) is coming off an 80-56 loss at Old Dominion on Saturday as a part of the ESPNU BracketBusters event.  The Flames, playing without freshman guard Jesse Sanders, saw Monarch junior Gerald Lee score a game-high 26 points en route to the win.  LU was led by Seth Curry's 24 points and six assists in the loss.

The Keydets are looking for payback from a 91-80 loss at Cameron Hall to the Flames earlier this season.  In front of the first-ever sellout at VMI's facility, the Flames handed VMI not only its first Big South loss of the season, but also its first home loss of the campaign.  In the game, Curry scored a career-high 35 points, while senior Anthony Smith netted 21 points and 17 rebounds.

Though Liberty enjoys a fantastic home-court advantage at the Vines Center, the Keydets have had success there.  Under second-year head coach Ritchie McKay, LU stands 26-3 at the Vines Center, with VMI holding the distinction as being one of the three teams to defeat the Flames there.  In fact, VMI has won two of its last three contests at the facility, including an 81-79 victory in the 2007-08 regular season and a 79-78 win in the 2007 Big South Championship.  LU holds a 6-3 advantage in the all-time series played at the Vines Center and a 10-9 lead in the all-time series overall.

Keydet Quick Hits

* Milestone Watch:  With three steals against Liberty on Tuesday, VMI senior Travis Holmes would become only the ninth player in NCAA Division I history with at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 300 steals.  The list includes some standouts from the past, including Maryland's Juan Dixon, George Washington's Shawnta Rogers and Ball State's Bonzi Wells.
    Entering Tuesday's game, Travis Holmes boasts 1,640 points, 548 rebounds, 338 assists and 297 steals in his prolific career.  Here’s a look at the entire list that Travis can join:
    * Tim Smith, East Tenn. State (2002-06)
* Juan Dixon, Maryland (1998-02)
* Cookie Belcher, Nebraska (1996-01)
* Shawnta Rogers, George Washington (1995-99)
* Bonzi Wells, Ball State (1994-98)
* Johnny Rhodes, Maryland (1992-96)
* Eric Murdock, Providence (1987-91)
* Michael Anderson, Drexel (1984-88)

* VMI Last Time Out:  Radford clinched the 2008-09 Big South regular season championship Saturday afternoon, defeating VMI 97-90 in a Big South contest played on Senior Day at Cameron Hall.
    Holding a 54-50 advantage with just under 15 minutes to go, the Highlanders stretched the lead to 10 by outscoring the Keydets 11-5 over the next 3:22. A Kenny Thomas layup gave the visitors a 65-55 lead with 11:26 to play, but VMI answered with eight-consecutive points over the next 1:08 to cut the lead to just two. Radford then put the game away, thanks to an 18-8 run, capped by an Art Parakhouski dunk at the 4:36 mark. The slam gave the Highlanders a 12-point cushion, and VMI could get no closer than eight the rest of the way.
    Radford was led by five players in double figures.  Kenny Thomas had 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Highlanders, while Joey Lynch-Flohr, Art Parakhouski and Amir Johnson each netted double-doubles.  VMI was led by Chavis Holmes’ 29-point performance, while twin brother Travis had 13 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.

* Last Meeting with Liberty:  In front of the largest crowd in Cameron Hall history, Liberty ended VMI’s 10-game winning streak  on Saturday, Jan. 17, prevailing 91-80 in a Big South contest.  The 5,029 fans in attendance set a new Cameron Hall record, surpassing the previous high set in a game against North Carolina on Dec. 15, 1997.
    Liberty was paced by Seth Curry, the top-scoring freshman in the country, who had a career-high 35 points for the Flames. Anthony Smith finished with 21 points and a career-best 17 rebounds to help Liberty hand the Keydets their first Big South loss of the season and first home loss since March 1, 2008.
    The Keydets were led by Austin Kenon in the defeat, as the sophomore guard tallied 21 points in the setback. VMI forced 25 turnovers, but could only convert 21 points off those miscues.

* By forcing 29 turnovers and committing only nine against the Highlanders, VMI continued a pair of impressive streaks.  The Keydets have caused at least 15 miscues while also not committing more turnovers than their opponents in each game this season.  The Keydets are 19-4 this season when scoring more points off turnovers than their opponents.

* VMI boasts a pair of players, Chavis (22.2 ppg) and Travis (19.3 ppg) Holmes, who are each averaging over 19 points per game.  That makes VMI one of two teams in the nation to make that claim, joining Chicago State.

* In 2008-09, the Keydets are trying to become the third school in Division I history to lead the nation in scoring for three straight seasons.  Furman did so from 1953-55, while Loyola Marymount followed suit from 1988-90.

A VMI win against Liberty would:
* Give the Keydets their 21st victory of the season, tying the team for the third-most wins in a single season in school history.  The 1977-78 team went 21-7, while a win against the Flames would also move VMI to 21-7.

* Tie the all-time series against Liberty at 10-10.  The two teams split last year’s regular season series, with each team winning on the road.  Liberty then defeated VMI 103-88 in the first round of the Big South Championship last March, avenging a 79-78 upset by the Keydets in the 2007 tournament.  Liberty leads the all-time series at the Vines Center, 6-3.

* Lock VMI into the #2 seed in the upcoming Big South Championship.  Likewise, a Liberty win on Tuesday would do the same for the Flames.