GAME NOTES: The Virginia Military Keydets pay a visit to the Ohio Bobcats on Wednesday night, for a quarterfinal-round matchup in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
VMI has been one of the more entertaining squads in the tournament, using an impressive offensive attack to claim wins in the first two rounds. The Keydets began with a 111-100 shootout victory over Canisius, and followed that up with a 106-95 triumph over IUPU-Fort Wayne. At 21-12 overall, they have surpassed the 20-win plateau for just the second time in the last 30 years.
Ohio has had a much different path to the quarterfinals, having earned its way here in some intense and low-scoring battles. The Bobcats snuck by Cleveland State, 64-62, in the opening round, and held on for a 56-54 win over Wright State in Saturday's second round.
In the only previous meeting between these programs, Ohio rolled to a 98-60 victory back during the 1971-72 season. The winner of this one moves on to the CIT semifinals to play an opponent to be determined.
D.J. Covington set a CIT record by pouring in 41 points to lead VMI over IPFW on Saturday. Led by that impressive effort, the Keydets connected on 58.7 percent of their total shots, while also sinking 23-of-32 attempts at the free-throw line. QJ Peterson also enjoyed a strong outing, hitting 6-of-9 from 3-point range and finishing with 25 points.
All season long, VMI has been piling up the points by playing at a frenetic pace. In fact, no team in the country is scoring better than the Keydets (88.9 ppg), despite a modest 44.6 percent success rate on field goal attempts. A major factor, beyond the pace, is their reliance on shots from 3-point range, as they have attempted more shots from distance than any team in the country (924), making 32.4 percent of those attempts. They are also a top-five team in rebounding (42.1 rpg), but let up 82.6 ppg at the defensive end. Covington (19.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.1 bpg) leads a trio of double-digit scorers, with Peterson (19.8 ppg) and Rodney Glasgow (18.5 ppg, 5.8 apg) also potent threats.
With 5:15 to play, Ohio trailed Wright State, 48-43. The Bobcats then went on a 12-2 run down the stretch to pull ahead 55-50 with 32 seconds to play. They didn't close out the game easily, hitting just 1-of-2 free-throw attempts in the final seconds, but the Raiders were unable to take advantage.
Ohio prefers a more deliberate tempo, as the team nets a modest 71 ppg, but sinks 45.6 percent of its shots from the floor. The Bobcats are also more successful in getting stops at the defensive end, letting up 66.3 ppg on 41 percent shooting. Nick Kellogg (15 ppg) and Maurice Ndour (13.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg) do most of the heavy lifting on offense. They are not only the only double- digit scorers on the roster, but the only players putting in more than 7.3 ppg. However, Javarez Willis was the lone Bobcat to reach double figures against Wright State, tallying 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range.
Clearly Ohio will be doing all it can to slow things down in this one, as the Bobcats aren't likely to win a shootout with the Keydets. With the advantage of playing at home, they may be able to pull it off, especially if Kellogg and Ndour bounce back.
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