Final Stats: VMI 93, Army 86 LEXINGTON, Va. -
Army had its highest offensive output in a regulation game versus a Division I opponent since the 2000-01 season, but the high-octane VMI Keydets scored a 93-86 victory at Cameron Hall on Friday night in the season opener for both schools. Army shot 56.4 percent and outrebounded the Keydets, 43-29, but could not overcome 34 turnovers, including 22 in the first half.
Army had five players in double figures led by a career-high 14 points from senior G Tyrell Thompson. Senior F Cleveland Richard also scored 14 points, and senior G Marcus Nelson chipped in 13 points, including a career-high nine foul shots. Nelson also blocked four shots and made four steals. Thompson was 6 of 7 from the field, including a three-pointer.
Two players scored in double figures off the bench. Sophomore G Julian Simmons scored 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including on three-pointers, while senior G Josh Miller had 12 points, including a team-high two three-pointers.
Junior F Jeremy Hence just missed his first career double-double with nine points and a career-best nine rebounds.
Austin Kenon scored a game-high 24 points, 17 of which came from the free throw line. The game featured 49 fouls and a combined 69 foul shots. Army was 20 for 32 from the stripe, while the Keydets made 28 of 37.
Michael Sparks scored 18 points, while Ron Burks added 15 points, 10 rebounds and six steals. Stan Okoye rounded out the Keydets' top scorers with 14 points.
Army outscored the Keydets 50-30 in the paint, but VMI turned the Black Knights’ 34 turnovers into 38 points.
VMI led 75-65 with 8:38 left in the game, but the Black Knights fought back with a 14-4 run that knotted the game with 5:44 left. Simmons scored the last five points of the spurt, including the game-tying triple.
The Keydets came right back, however, with six straight points to take an 85-79 advantage on a Burks layup with 2:08 left. Army got back within four points, but the Keydets went 8 for 12 from the free throw line down the stretch to preserve their lead.
The Black Knights have now either led or been within one possession of the lead in 23 of the last 29 games.
The first 3:28 of the game featured three ties and two lead changes. The Keydets jumped out to an early four-point lead, but the Black Knights went on an 8-2 run to take a 10-8 lead with 17:01 to go. That would be Army’s largest lead of the half as VMI ripped off seven straight ponts to claim a 15-10 advantage with 15:48 left. Army was able to tie the game at 25-25, but again the Keydets responded with a 16-7 spurt to take their largest lead of the half at 41-32 with 1:21 to go. Army pulled within five points, but two free throws by Kenon with one second left in the half sent the Keydets into the locker room with a 43-36 lead.
Army’s entire seven-point halftime deficit was accounted for in a 20-11 VMI scoring advantage off turnovers.
Burks hit a three-pointer to open the second half and give the Keydets a 10-point cushion, but
Army went on an 11-0 run, punctuated by Hence slam dunk, to take a 47-46 lead with 17:10 remaining. As was common throughout the game, the Keydets came right back with an 8-0 stretch to reclaim a seven-point lead with 15:39 left.
Army clawed back within two points with 13:11 to go, but VMI scored 17 of the next 26 points to re-establish a 75-65 lead and set up Army’s last comeback attempt of the night.
The win marked the second straight for the Keydets over Army. The Black Knights had limited VMI to an average of 65.5 points per game in the last two meetings.
Army makes its home debut on Tuesday, Nov. 17 when it hosts LIU at 7 p.m.
Army’s starting five was comprised entirely of seniors … senior F Eric Zastoupil made his debut with the first unit … the loss extended Army’s losing streak in season openers on the road to seven … Army is now 176-33 all-time when scoring at least 80 points … Army was outrebounded in 25 of its 30 games last season … VMI led the nation in scoring last season at 93.8 points per game, including nearly 14 three-pointers per game, also the best average in the country … the Keydets made 11 of 32 triples on Friday night … VMI's 20 steals were six more than their NCAA-leading 14.2 swipes per game last season … Freshmen Ella Ellis and Jason Pancoe made their collegiate debuts Friday night … Nelson’s four blocked shots ranks tied for second on the Academy single-game ledger and moved him into sole possession of third place on the Army career list (57).