LEXINGTON, Va. – Sophomore Greg Parham hit two huge three-pointers in the closing minute to lift the VMI men’s basketball team to an 81-78 win over The Citadel in both teams final Southern Conference regular season games of the year.
VMI took a 73-70 lead with 2:06 left in the game on a corner three-pointer from freshman Jake Stephens. The Bulldogs’ Lew Stallworth answered on the other end to tie the game. Greg Parham hit a trey at the 1:01 mark on a feed from Stephens, and The Citadel cut the advantage to one on a Zane Najdawi layup. Greg Parham hit his second late three-pointer with 15 seconds left to make it a four-point game, but Stallworth again nailed a three-point basket with nine seconds left to cut the lead to 79-78. Junior guard Garrett Gilkeson converted a pair of free throws and The Citadel could not convert a 30-foot shot to try to force overtime.
Gilkeson finished with 19 points and a team-high eight rebounds while Sarju Patel tied his career-high with 19 points, fueled by five three-pointers. Bubba Parham dealt out a career-best nine assists and added 15 points while Greg Parham finished with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from behind the three-point arc. Stephens posted seven points and five boards and Myles Lewis added six points and five rebounds.
Najdawi netted a game-high 25 points for The Citadel (12-17/4-14 SoCon) and grabbed seven rebounds. Stallworth scored 21 points along with a game-high 10 rebounds and five assists, and Conner Kern tallied 12 points and nine caroms. Matt Frierson scored 13.
VMI (10-20/4-14 SoCon) won the turnover battle 16-8 and out-scored the visitors 19-6 in points off turnovers. The Citadel had a 32-14 edge in points in the paint and out-rebounded the Keydets 41-33.
The Citadel led 46-34 at the half and maintained the advantage until a pair of Gilkeson free throws at the 3:06 mark.
The two teams’ last head-to-head battle was decided at the buzzer as well, as The Citadel scored as time expired to defeat VMI 84-82 in Charleston, S.C. on Jan. 26.
The VMI win paired with Western Carolina's 81-74 setback at ETSU Saturday afternoon gave VMI the No. 8 seed for next week's 2019 Ingles Southern Conference Basketball Championship presented by General Shale by virtue of a three-way tiebreaker between the Keydets, Western Carolina, and The Citadel. VMI will face Western Carolina Friday, March 8 at 5 p.m. in the first round of the event at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C. For tournament info and tickets, go to www.soconsports.com.
Quotes from head coach Dan Earl:
"This game was not good for my blood pressure or gray hair and it wasn't exactly the way we drew it up. I was so super proud of our guys. We kept fighting. In the first half, certainly credit The Citadel. It seems like everything comes down to the wire between the two teams. Early on, we did not make shots at all, but I thought we were doing some good things. For our guys to stick with it and continue to compete, again, a total team win."
"It so hard today to say who was the best player but Garrett Gilkeson in defense was phenomenal. He really changed things by keeping them from scoring so easily. Zane Najdawi is a tough cover and tough on the block and (Lew) Stallworth can drive and they were hitting 3's in the first half. Greg Parham also gave us a big lift coming off the bench."