Wednesday was a long day, it started early for me with the long trip to Asheville, and then there were four games to watch in the Big South Quarterfinals. They weren't the best games I've ever seen, but it was the first time I had been to a tournament, so it was a new experience. The next task in the morning was to start to do some of the writeups. Since I had just two games on Thursday in the evening, I had plenty of time to get my recaps done. I also had plenty of time to sleep in on a weekday, which I took full advantage of.
I got my first writeup done fairly quickly, but it was reaching lunch time and the maids wanted to clean my hotel room, so I ventured out to get some lunch. I had heard Asheville Pizza and Brewery was a good spot, so I headed that way. I ended up making a good choice, since I was able to get a few craft brews and a solid pizza buffet that wasn't just your normal slices. I brought the netbook with me and completed my second review done. When I got back to the hotel, I finished up the rest of my writeups from the quarterfinals with some time to spare.
After some rest, I made my way back to Kimmel Arena for the semifinal rounds of the Big South. VMI and Winthrop were able to upset the higher seeds of Coastal Carolina and Campbell respectively. They each had similar performances, where the offenses were both very efficient and on D they held their opponents for long stretches without any success to cruise to easy wins.
The Keydets and Eagles split their season series, and with VMI it would be hard to predict how the game would end up going. If they shot the ball like they did against CCU, going 14-of-28 from 3, then Winthrop would have trouble keeping up. The Eagles have struggled much of the year on offense, but they were able to tear apart Campbell yesterday, so it was difficult to tell what would happen.
The Keydets had a lot more support for today's game than yesterday. The band was able to make the trip from Lexington along with several other cadets. Having this group made the arena very pro-VMI, since the vocal band overpowered all of the Winthrop fans.
I knew that the game would be televised by ESPNU, and since I had front-row seats, I decided to make a sign ahead of time. I should have just made one that had a huge font on it, saying one thing, but I got greedy and decided to mention @800GP, #TMM8, and @MBHH on it. A few minutes into the game, I got a text from a co-worker saying they saw me on TV, so I hope the sign made it several times as well, since I held it up whenever I could.
For the game itself, I got an interesting perspective, since I was sitting next to a VMI fan from Hickory, N.C. Throughout the game, he provided me with plenty of facts about the Keydets that I didn't know, and he was kind enough to ask plenty about CCU and the rest of the Big South. He and the rest of the Keydet fans had plenty to cheer about, since VMI continued their solid shooting and had an early 20-8 advantage.
Originally VMI was scoring like they are most accustomed to, with threes and long jumpers. VMI switched up its offense game plan, though, and started feeding DJ Covington in the paint. He was able to go 6-for-6 in the first half, and I was very surprised how VMI was able to transition their offense to an inside game.
Winthrop was barely hanging on as Andre Jones was the only one keeping the Eagles within reach. Later in the half, the refs started calling a lot of fouls for Winthrop, and without those free throws the double-digit lead VMI had would have been extended even further. It wasn't until late in the first when someone else for the Eagles stepped up as Gideon Gamble hit a few jumpers to have Winthrop down 10 at the half.
Despite the lead at halftime, the VMI fan next to me was still concerned if the Keydets could hold it. His concerns were unwarranted though, as VMI kept going in the paint and getting points from Stan Okoye and Keith Gabriel, in addition to a few more buckets from Covington. Winthrop was scoring at the same rate as VMI until the 14-minute mark, when Jones picked up his fourth foul. He would have to sit for a while, and VMI would take full advantage, stretching the lead to more than 20 points. Jordan Weethee has been a revelation off the bench for the Keydets in the past two games, and he contributed big in the final run for VMI.
It was amazing to see VMI win in the way that they did. They will have the stigma as a run-and-gun team, considering that's how they have played the past few years. That was also the case when they were able to knock off CCU yesterday, but today against Winthrop they were dominant down low on offense. If they can carry over that versatility in the championship game, then they will be very tough to beat.
VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE 75, WINTHROP 55 03/01/2012
VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE 17-15 (8-10) -- D. Richardson 2-11 0-0 6; S. Okoye 5-14 3-5 13; R. Burks 2-3 7-8 11; Q. Upshur 3-9 0-0 8; R. Glasgow 3-5 0-1 7; K. Gabriel 3-4 2-2 9; D. Covington 6-6 4-4 16; J. Weethee 3-4 1-1 9; M. Sparks 0-1 2-2 2; J. Watson 0-1 0-0 0; N. Gore 0-0 0-0 0; D. Absher 0-0 0-0 0; B. Brown 0-0 0-0 0; W. Whiting 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-47 19-23 75. WINTHROP 12-20 (8-10) -- G. Valentine 0-3 1-4 1; A. Jones 4-11 6-8 14; R. Middleton 6-18 0-1 14; G. Gamble 3-7 0-0 6; J. Jerome 1-5 2-2 4; J. Bourne 3-5 3-4 9; M. Morgan 0-5 0-0 0; R. King 0-1 1-2 1; L. Brown 3-5 0-0 6; A. Smith 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-61 13-21 55.
Three-point goals: VMI 6-17 (K. Gabriel 1-2; M. Sparks 0-1; S. Okoye 0-4; R. Glasgow 1-2; Q. Upshur 2-6; J. Weethee 2-2), WINT 2-15 (A. Jones 0-3; M. Morgan 0-1; G. Gamble 0-2; R. Middleton 2-7; A. Smith 0-1; L. Brown 0-1); Rebounds: VMI 25 (S. Okoye 10), WINT 34 (G. Valentine 9); Assists: VMI 14 (S. Okoye 4), WINT 5 (G. Gamble 2); Total Fouls -- VMI 19, WINT 22; Fouled Out: VMI-D. Covington; WINT-G. Gamble.