The Alice Lloyd Eagles put up a valiant effort for twenty-eight minutes before eventually succumbing to NCAA scoring champion Virginia Military Institute (VMI) 101-74 in a contest played last night in Lexington, VA.
For the past five seasons, VMI has led all NCAA Division 1 schools in scoring average per game, and last season’s team averaged 87.9 ppg. Most Kentucky fans still recall how the Keydets 2009 team went to Rupp Arena and posted a 111-103 upset on the stunned Wildcats.
In the first half of last night’s contest, the Keydets scored two quick buckets before the Eagles settled down. A Brandon Hayes jumper at 16:00 gave the Eagles their first lead at 10-8. ALC did a fine job of controlling the tempo and proceeded to match the hosts bucket for bucket. VMI maintained a slight lead most of the half, but when Eagle forward Shawn Thompson drained a three at the buzzer, the squads went into the locker room tied at 39.
The Eagles did two things in the opening twenty minutes that Coach JR Hammond knew they must do in order to keep the game close: first, they limited their turnovers against VMI’s vaunted press to only 9; second, they shot outstanding from the field by connecting on 15-30 attempts and 6-9 from long range.
Hayes opened up the scoring for the Eagles in the second half as he coolly sank a jumper to give his club an early lead at 41-39. Unfortunately, from this point, things began to turn in the Keydets favor.
The blitzing VMI defense that Alice Lloyd was able to withstand in the first half finally began to pay dividends against the Eagles in the second, and Alice Lloyd committed several turnovers in succession against Virginia Military’s relentless press. Fueled by their defense, the Keydets scored 10 consecutive points to go ahead 49-41 at the 17:34 mark.
After an exchange of several buckets, Eagle guard Casey Dalton drilled a three. His basket was soon followed by teammate Clint Stepp’s 25–footer. Suddenly, the deficit was reduced to only five (54-49) at the 14:27 mark. The home crowd began to get uneasy as they could sense the possibility for a monumental upset.
However, sparked by the fine shooting of guard Keith Gabriel and forward Jordan Weethee, as well as being further benefited by the foul trouble that plagued Eagle guards Dalton and Issac Wilson, the Keydets went on a 19-10 run over the next five minutes. When the dust settled, the hosts lead was fourteen (70-56), and they never looked back. VMI then extended their advantage until the final horn sounded.
For Alice Lloyd (4-1) four players reached double figures. Dalton led the way with 14 points, including 4-6 from long range. He fouled out at the 9:23 mark.
Hayes and Wilson also gave a good effort, as they both tallied 11 points each. Hayes added 7 rebounds to his effort, while sophomore Wilson tied Dalton for the team high in assists with 3.
Strong sophomore center Terry Muse contributed to the rebounding haul by ripping down 9 boards of his own. A total team effort on the night allowed the Eagles to outrebound the Keydets 48-45.
For the game, the Eagles ended up shooting 41.2% compared to VMI’s 43.5%. The big difference in the game was turnovers as Alice Lloyd finished with 27 compared to only 9 for Virginia Military.
After the game, Coach Hammond gave his assessment of his team’s play: “I felt that we played hard and competed well. One of our goals that we accomplished was that we out-rebounded them. I felt that a big difference in the game was in the second half when they went to a five guard lineup quickly. It gave them an extra shooter on the floor and allowed them to wear us down a little more with their defensive pressure.” Hammond further added, “These men never quit, and we proved we are capable of playing against a quality opponent like VMI. To take it a step further, we need to be able to sustain that type of effort for forty minutes.”