ASHEVILLE, N.C. – No. 8 seed VMI got the men’s side of the Ingles Southern Conference Championships presented by General Shale started with a 96-83 win over No. 9 Western Carolina. Bubba Parham and Sarju Patel combined for 63 points to lead the Keydets.
Parham tallied a career-best 41 points, while Patel added 22. Carlos Dotson led the Catamounts with 27 points and 13 boards. Kameron Gibson also topped 20 with 23.
It was a back-and-forth game with three ties and 12 lead changes. The Catamounts led 46-45 on Marc Gosselin’s layup early in the second half. Myles Lewis answered for the Keydets, giving his squad the lead for good.
It was still a three-point game after two Dotson free throws with just over 15 minutes to go. Parham hit a jumper to jumpstart a 10-0 run that ended with Garrett Gilkeson’s and-1 with 12:03 remaining. Six times Western Carolina cut the deficit to seven, but the Cats would get no closer.
VMI moves on to meet top-seed Wofford in Saturday’s first quarterfinal game. They square off at noon on Nexstar and ESPN+.
Head Coach Dan Earl:
“I’m really proud of our guys. We’re continuing to fight, we’re continuing to get better, which has been huge for us. We had a tough stretch in the Southern Conference. We gave away a few games where we gave away the lead late. I thought we’ve been better down the stretch in late game situations.
“Bubba has shown throughout the year that he knows how to score the ball. He’s doing a good job on knowing when to distribute and when to score. He’s making really good decisions. Sarju Patel is playing his best basketball, just a phenomenal game from him as well.”
Three Notes to Know
- First SoCon Tourney win for the Keydets since 2003 in North Charleston, South Carolina. They defeated Furman 62-56 in the first round and reached the semis with a 66-60 triumph over Davidson before having the run stopped by Chattanooga, 77-59.
- Bubba Parham’s previous career high of 38 points came against Western Carolina in the Keydets’ 83-78 win in Cullowhee, North Carolina, on Feb. 23.
Three Stats to Know
- More on Parham’s 40-point night. His 41 are the most in a SoCon tourney game since March, 5, 2017, when ETSU’s T.J. Cromer scored the same total in a semifinal win over Samford en route to the Bucs’ seventh title.
- The Keydets fired a season-best 51.7 percent from 3-point range, making 15-of-29. They’ve made 31 in their last two games, both wins, shooting 46.3 percent (31-for-67) beyond the arc and 41.5 percent (22-for-53) inside it. The 15 triples fell two short of the tournament record of 17 set by VMI against Western Carolina on March 2, 1996.
- The two teams combined to shoot 82.7 percent from the free-throw line. VMI was 25-for-30 (83.3 percent), while Western came in 18-for-22 (81.8 percent).
2019 Ingles Southern Conference Men’s Basketball Championship presented by General Shale schedule
Friday, March 8 (ESPN+)
Game 1 - (8) VMI 96, (9) Western Carolina 83
Game 2 - (7) Samford vs. (10) The Citadel, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 9 (ESPN+/Nexstar)
Game 3 - (1) Wofford vs. (8) VMI, 12 p.m.
Game 4 - (4) ETSU vs. (5) Chattanooga, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5 - (2) UNCG vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 6 - (3) Furman vs. (6) Mercer, 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 10 (ESPN+/Nexstar)
Game 7 - Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 4 p.m.
Game 8 - Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 6:30 p.m.
Monday, March 11 (ESPN)
Championship game, 7 p.m.
Courtesy Southern Conference