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The Keydets will play Charleston Southern in the semifinals Saturday.
Friday, March 8, 2013
CONWAY, S.C. -- The VMI basketball team says forget the snow back home on post in Lexington. Hey, the Keydets have booked themselves for an additional couple days' stay in more climate friendly Myrtle Beach.
In what's becoming almost a March ritual under Coach Duggar Baucom, the Keydets advanced to the Big South Tournament semifinals for the third straight and fifth time in seven years with a hard-earned 90-86 victory over stubborn Longwood in Thursday's quarterfinals at Coastal Carolina's HTC Center.
"The guys wanted to extend their stay. There's a lot of snow in Lexington so we would rather stay down here,'' noted Baucom, whose club will face tournament favorite Charleston Southern (18-11) in Saturday's noon semfinal.
The Keydets had to stave off a furious comeback by Longwood (8-25) down the stretch to prevent what would undoubtedly would have been one of the worst bus rides ever. Leading 84-73 with 6:14 left, VMI saw the pesky Lancers trim the deficit to two points with 14 seconds remaining.
After VMI's Joe Carr missed the front end of a one-and-one with 7.2 seconds left, teammate Brian Brown, the shortest player on the court, came up with the rebound. Brown was immediately fouled and made the first free throw, but missed the second, leaving the Keydets ahead 89-86.
Longwood's Tristan Carey grabbed the rebound of Brown's miss. Carey then attempted to get the ball to fellow guard Lucas Woodhouse to race the ball down court for a shot at tying the game, but his pass was high and and it deflected off Woodhouse's hand. VMI's Rodney Glasgow picked up the loose ball and made the first of two free throws with :03 left to seal VMI's ninth win in 15 tournament games in Baucom's eight seasons.
When asked if he was concerned about his health during the frenetic finish, Baucom, a survivor of major heart surgery, teed up the biggest laugh of the tournament's postgame news conferences so far this week.
"I knew I was in trouble when I looked over and my mom was out of the stands pacing,'' said a grinning Baucom said, prompting a roar of laughter in the media room.
"I was worried about her heart a lot more than I was worried about mine. I've got a defrilbulator [spelling?], mine will shock me back! She doesn't have one. I knew I was in good shape, I've got like a backup.''
Until Longwood's ate spurt, Baucom & Co. were basically on auto-pilot all game. Led by senior star forward Stan Okoye's 25 points, the Keydets rolled to a 55-43 halftime lead. Longwood coach Mike Gillian went to a box-and-one defense for the second half with David Robinson shadowing Okoye's every step.
"They did a great job of defending us the second half,'' said Okoye, who was limited to only six field-goal attempts and six points in the final 20 minutes. "David Robinson did a good job of not letting me touch the ball. They made it difficult for me. I wasn't taking the same shots as I was taking the first half, like the open 3s and attacking the basket.
"In the second half, when they needed me to score I wasn't there. We have to learn from that, but we played through our adversity and, obviously, we converted at the end.''
Okoye, who has averaged 32.3 points in VMI's current three-game winning streak, finished with 31 points to lead his team. Junior center D.J. Covington was 12-for-18 from the field for 26 points. Glasgow, a junior point guard, had a huge game, scoring 22 points with six assists and only one turnover. The trio combined for all but 11 of VMI's 90 points.
Still, if not for Brown's clutch rebound with the game on the line, the Keydets easily could have been toast.
"Little man, big heart,'' Covington said Brown, a 5-foot-11 sophomore guard.
Longwood coach Mike Gillian, whose young club stunned two-time defending champion UNC Asheville 87-72 in Tuesday's first round, said: "Sometimes the ball just bounces your way, sometimes it doesn't. He's standing in the right place and it bounced out to him. If it went a little shorter we have it, if it went a little longer we have it, it's the way it goes sometimes.''
The loss soured a great performance by Longwood freshman Michael Kessens. The 6-9 forward from Switzerland scored a tournament-record 36 points to go with a game-high 15 rebounds. The previous record was 35 points, held by Radford Kenny Thomas (2009) and Liberty's Jamal Bennett (1999).
"We knew we had a shot at the game ... we knew it was a game of runs,'' said Kessens about his squad's rousing comeback. "So we knew our run was going to come.
"The guys did a good job of feeding me and the ball kept going in. Too bad it didn't work out at the end. I would rather have scored zero points and won the game.''
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