CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Freshman forward Kevin Easley scored 26 points and added eight rebounds to help lead Chattanooga to an 83-65 win over VMI Sunday in the Southern Conference opener for both teams.
The Mocs, who captured their third straight home win, sank 13 3-pointers including seven in the second half to break open the game and end a two-game skid to the Keydets.
Chattanooga (5-5, 1-0) placed four in double figures scoring including David Jean-Baptiste (18), Jerry Johnson (17), and Jonathan Scott (11).
The Keydets (5-6, 0-1) were led in scoring by guard Bubba Parham with 13 points while guard Garrett Gilkeson chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds and forward Miles Lewis added 12 points and seven rebounds. Forward Sarju Patel tallied 10 points for his fifth double figures scoring game of the season.
The Mocs dished out 20 assists on 29 made field goals including six assists by Johnson who also finished with a game-high four treys.
The first half saw four ties and four lead changes as VMI was able to establish inside scoring with 14 paint points over the first nine minutes before foul trouble saddled Keydet big men Tyler Creammer and Jake Stephens. The Mocs assembled a 13-4 run past the midway point of the opening half to take the lead for good as Jean-Baptiste nailed a paint jumper to give UTC a 33-28 advantage to cap the run at the 6:12 mark.
Chattanooga took a 48-39 halftime lead and the Keydets sliced the deficit to 50-44 when Gilkeson dropped in a 3-pointer with 18:31 left. That would be as close as VMI could get the rest of the way.
The Mocs responded by canning a trio of treys as Scott, Easley, and Jean-Baptiste each connected to break the game open. Chattanooga led 59-46 after the 9-2 run and the Keydets were never able to carve the margin to single digits.
Chattanooga shot 45.3% from the floor while the Keydets hit at a 38.2% clip. VMI outrebounded the Mocs, 39-38, and got 17 points scoring from its bench. VMI was held to six 3-pointers for the fourth consecutive game and went 6 for 23 from beyond the arc.
VMI concludes its four game road swing Wednesday night at Presbyterian College. Game time is 7 p.m.
VMI HEAD COACH DAN EARL –
“Credit to Chattanooga, I thought they played a very good game. They got some open shots and they knocked them down certainly in the second half. They got us in foul trouble again and that’s been something we’ve got to learn from. We had to play some different lineups and we didn’t handle that adversity overly well. We have to figure some things out and communicate better on defense and move the ball better on offense.”
“Jean-Baptiste played well for them and I thought he was very solid. I thought early on we did okay and were in the game and they started to break it open late in the first half. But overall, we have to stick with what we’re doing and certainly want to drive the ball downhill and make the appropriate decision - whether that’s shooting, finish at the rim, or kick it out. We have to continue to mature and learn from it.”