LEXINGTON, Va. – Junior center Jake Stephens scored 33 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and guards Greg Parham and Sean Conway each added 27 and 25 points, respectively, to lead VMI to a 110-103 victory over The Citadel in Southern Conference basketball action Saturday afternoon at Cameron Hall.
It was the first 30-point game for Stephens in his career as he went 11-of-22 from the floor and converted eight-of-nine from the line for the big scoring day. Parham posted his third straight 20-point+ effort and Conway garnered career highs both in points and rebounds with 13 while hitting a career-high seven 3-point shots.
The Keydets (7-6, 2-2 SoCon) bounced back from Wednesday’s heartbreaking 82-80 lost to Wofford Wednesday night by shooting 52.2% from the floor and canning 12-of-27 beyond the three-point line for 44.4%.
Senior guard Kaiden Rice, who tops the SoCon in 3FG per game, led the Citadel with 29 points including seven 3-pointers while senior forward Hayden Brown added 19 points and eight rebounds for the Bulldogs (8-2, 1-2 SoCon).
VMI converted 26-of-30 free throws including 14-of-16 over the last 5:37 to hold off a Citadel rally. The Bulldogs went 22-of-32 from the stripe on the afternoon.
The Keydets led 82-67 for their largest margin of the contest with 9:04 left in the second half following a Parham jumper in the lane. The Bulldogs quickly responded with a 7-0 run to climb back and later pulled within 106-100 on a Brown layup with :24 left. Conway responded by converting two free throws at the :20 mark to push the cushion back to eight points, and Citadel guard Brent Davis rammed in a 3-pointer to make it 108-103 with 16 seconds remaining. VMI inbounded and guard Kamdyn Curfman was fouled and sank two free throws with :09 to cap the scoring and send the Keydets to their fourth straight win over the Bulldogs.
The Citadel rode a flurry of Rice 3-pointers in the first half to build a 27-18 lead with 12:20 left, but a pair of Conway 3-balls quickly brought the Keydets back. Parham hit game-tying baskets three times later in the half before putting the Keydets up for good with a pair of free throws at the 1:47 mark to make it 47-45.
VMI led 52-46 at the break as Parham had booked 20 points before intermission.
The Citadel, which had shot 53.3% in 3-pointers in the first half, cooled down beyond the arc in the second half and connected on 38.5%. The Keydets meanwhile went inside to Stephens often as the 6-10 center converted eight-of-12 shots from the floor and scored 20 points after intermission.
VMI moved to 7-1 on the season after leading at the half and out rebounding a foe. The Keydets also moved their home record this season to 7-1.The 12 three-point shots by VMI marked the ninth time this season that VMI had made 10+ threes in a game.
VMI returns to action Monday night at ETSU in a game that was originally postponed January 6th. Tipoff in Johnson City will be 7 pm.
VMI HEAD COACH DAN EARL –”Preparing for The Citadel takes years off your life because they are so hard to prepare for. I told the guys to keep fighting and keep swinging and there were going to be runs both ways. They (The Citadel) can certainly shoot the ball and we had some guys have some tremendous games scoring the ball. Super proud of the team effort.“
”Sean Conway was huge. Certainly, he made seven threes which helps everything, but more importantly, for him to rebound in the game especially with Myles Lewis not available to play - we challenged Sean to be more physical and he responded with 13 rebounds. A tremendous job on the boards and he really helped us out.
“Jake Stephens was missing his 3-point shot, but he was great around the rim and had really good balance, was strong competing and going towards the rim rather than away from it. Greg Parham is really playing confidently now and was able to get the ball downhill and he can finish around the basket with that floater and can shoot the three. He’s a tough cover and when he’s playing with confidence and with aggressiveness, I think he’s at his best and we are at our best.”