With a 14-10 record as of Feb. 8, 2022 (7-5 SoCon), VMI basketball is midway through an exciting season. January’s highlights include victories over Western Carolina, The Citadel, Samford, and ETSU. In addition, Jake Stephens ’22, center, has been named Southern Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week three times so far this season after posting career highs in points and rebounds. Stephens was also named Southern Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Month for December 2021. In addition, two players, Stephens and Kamdyn Curfman ’23, guard, have joined the 1,000-point club, a group that includes only 44 players in program history.
Western Carolina, Feb. 4 (W, 76-69)
The VMI men’s basketball team trailed by as many as 12 points midway through the second half but rallied for a 76-69 victory over Western Carolina University in a Southern Conference clash from Cameron Hall Feb. 4. It is VMI’s third straight win and keeps the Keydets in the top four in the conference standings at 7-5 with six games to play.
The visiting Catamounts led 41-36 at halftime, forcing the Keydets into just 20% (4-20) shooting from three-point range and extended the advantage to 54-42 with 11:46 on the game clock. A 16-3 run over the next five minutes, fueled by seven points from Honor Huff ’25, guard, put VMI ahead 58-57.
WCU again held the lead, 69-65, with 3:23 left, but the Keydet defense shut out the visitors for the remainder of the game. The contest was tied at 69 all with under a minute to play, and following a timeout, Curfman nailed a three-pointer, and VMI iced the game from the free-throw line.
Stephens scored a game-high 20 points with 12 rebounds, three assists, and three steals. He has 12 20-point games this season, along with eight double-doubles. Trey Bonham ’23, guard, had 19 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals, and Huff had 17 points and six boards. Curfman connected on only 2-14 from deep, but both makes came in the final 7:12 of the game and marked 25 straight games with a made three-pointer, the longest active streak in the conference.
The Keydets are 8-2 at home this season and have won 19 of their last 22 games in Cameron Hall. With the most recent victory, VMI notched its sixth win over the Catamounts in the last eight matchups.
VMI (14-10) hosts Mercer University Thursday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. as a part of a three-game SoCon homestand, with The Citadel coming to Lexington Feb. 12 for a 3:35 p.m. tipoff.
UNC-Greensboro, Feb. 2 (W, 76-65)
The VMI basketball team utilized a 16-3 run at the end of the game to defeat host UNCG by a 76-65 count Feb. 2 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Keydets (13-10, 6-5) earned their fifth true road win of the season, the most since the 2014-15 season, and defeated the Spartans (12-10, 4-6) for only the second time in Greensboro in 14 tries at the Greensboro Coliseum. The victory also marked VMI head coach Dan Earl’s 70th at the program’s helm.
The Spartans went cold over the final four minutes of the game and missed their final eight shot attempts, going scoreless in the last 4:10 of regulation. The Keydets took advantage and finished the final 2:53 on an 8-0 run, and 16-3 run over the final four minutes by hitting six of eight from the field over that span.
Overall, the Keydets shot 66.7% from the field—a season high—and also hit a season-high 63.2% from the three-point range during the contest. VMI also overcame 16 turnovers, tying a season high, to evade a Southern Conference loss and stay in the league race. The Keydets made key defensive stops when they needed to despite UNCG scoring 20 points off VMI turnovers, seven second-chance points and 11 fast-break points.
In a close game, the score was tied at three separate points, and the lead changed four times throughout.
Bonham scored 17 points, including eight straight, starting just under the six-minute mark to put VMI up for good. He has now scored in double figures in 10 of the last 11 contests.
Curfman went scoreless in the opening half but arrived in the second half to pour in a team-high 18 points to keep the Spartans at bay. Stephens finished the game with 15 points, including three treys, while Huff also scored in double figures with 14.
ETSU, Jan. 29 (W, 83-79)
Bonham, guard, netted a career-best 21 points to help the VMI men’s basketball team rally from a nine-point second-half deficit Jan. 29 to defeat ETSU 83-79 in a Southern Conference game from Cameron Hall.
The visiting Buccaneers led 58-49 with just over 13 minutes left before a 16-5 run over the next four minutes put the Keydets ahead 65-63. The teams traded the lead several times down the stretch, and ETSU had a 79-78 advantage after a basket from Ty Brewer with 44 seconds left. Bonham answered with a driving layup eight seconds later and drew a foul. After Bonham sank the free throw to complete a traditional three-point play and put VMI ahead 81-79, Sean Conway ’23, guard, came up big on the defensive end with a block, and ETSU was forced to foul. Louis Tang ’23, guard, sank two free throws with 11 seconds left to provide the final cushion.
The victory snapped a 13-game losing skid to ETSU. Bonham tied a career high with six rebounds, and Stephens notched his 13th career double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds. He added five assists and three blocked shots on the afternoon. Huff, guard, nailed four three-pointers and finished with 21 points, while Curfman had 12 points. Conway had eight points.
Furman, Jan. 26 (L, 79-64)
The VMI basketball team faltered late in a 79-64 loss to host Furman Jan. 26 at Timmons Arena in Greenville, South Carolina.
The Paladins proved to be the aggressor throughout the game and outrebounded the Keydets by a 47-32 margin, including 18 offensive boards that yielded 18 second-chance points.
VMI also went cold late in the game, as Furman went on an 18-3 run over the last five minutes to balloon the lead as the Keydets missed their final nine shot attempts from the floor.
Stephens led VMI with 20 points during the game by going 8-for-15 from the field, in addition to eight rebounds in 33 minutes of play. Bonham also finished in double figures for VMI, as he went 4-7 from the field as well as six boards and six assists before fouling out.
Chattanooga, Jan. 22 (L, 78-74)
League-leading Chattanooga hung on for a 78-74 victory over the VMI men’s basketball team Jan. 22 from Cameron Hall in a Southern Conference game.
The Keydets rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to take a 74-73 lead on a layup by Bonham with 1:24 left. The Mocs’ Malachi Smith, the leading scorer in the conference, answered with a jumper, and after a steal on the other end, David Jean-Baptiste sunk two free throws with 16 seconds left to make it a 77-74 Chattanooga lead. VMI worked the ball around, but a three-pointer by Curfman in the closing seconds left rimmed out.
Huff scored a career-high 25 points, shooting eight of 12 from the floor, his third straight game setting a new top mark. He scored 21 at The Citadel Jan. 15 and 23 against Samford Jan. 20, both VMI victories. Stephens netted 20 with seven rebounds, four treys, and two blocks, and Curfman had 16, nailing four three-pointers. Bonham finished with 10 points.
Both teams shot the ball well, with Chattanooga sinking 54% (27-50) of its shots while VMI sunk 48.1% (25-52). The Mocs took advantage of 90.9% (20-22) shooting from the free-throw line, while VMI hit an uncharacteristic 53.3% (8-15) from the charity stripe. The Keydets had led the conference in free-throw shooting percentage (80.3%) entering the game.
Samford, Jan. 20 (W, 99-80)
Huff netted a career-high 21 points Jan. 20 as the VMI men’s basketball team defeated visiting Samford University 99-80 in Southern Conference action from Cameron Hall.
Huff nailed five of seven shots from three-point range and eight of 11 overall to go along with four assists to snap his previous best of 15 points against The Citadel Jan. 15. Curfman finished with a game-high 23 points, tying his season high of six treys in the contest and his sixth 20-point game of the season. Bonham had a full stat line with 16 points, a career-high eight assists, and five rebounds, while Tanner Mans ’24, guard, made four of five from deep and finished with 14 points. Stephens contributed 10 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and two blocks.
VMI shot 52.8% (19-36) from a three-point distance for the game, the most three-pointers made against a Division I opponent so far this season. The Keydets shot 57.6% (34-59) from the floor for the game, while holding the Bulldogs to 40% (28-70) overall. VMI distributed 25 assists, the most against a Division I foe this year.
The Keydets led 51-41 at the break and held a 66-57 edge at the 14:29 mark of the second half. A 10-0 run over the next five minutes pushed the advantage to 76-57, and the Keydets led by at least 13 points the rest of the way.
The Citadel, Jan. 15 (W, 90-85)
Stephens scored 20 points and grabbed a career-high 21 rebounds to help VMI hold off a second-half rally by The Citadel and post a 90-85 Southern Conference win Jan. 15 at McAlister Field House in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Keydet victory snapped a three-game skid and raised VMI’s record to 10-8, 3-3 in the league. VMI also won its fourth road game of the year for the first time since 2014-15.
VMI held the lead for 38:27 of regulation but wasn’t able to put the game away until the final half minute of the contest.
The Citadel’s Jason Roche hit three free throws to pull the hosts within 83-80 with 2:32 to play. Stephens then scored the next four points in the paint to give the Keydets some cushion heading into the final seconds of regulation. Stephens’ driving layup after a called timeout made it 85-80 at the 1:22 mark, and after getting a stop on the next Citadel possession on a missed Roche 3-pointer, VMI extended its lead as Stephens was credited with a tip-in on an offensive rebound kept alive by teammate Conway and VMI led by seven with :36 left. Conway and Curfman combined to hit three of four from the foul line over the final 16 seconds to secure VMI’s fifth win over their military rivals over the last six meetings.
Stephens, who also blocked four shots, labored through numerous double teams throughout the day and was joined in double-figures scoring by Bonham with a season-high 17 points, giving him five double-figures scoring games over his last six outings. Curfman and Huff each contributed 15 points as Huff returned to the starting lineup for the first time since late November.
VMI, which entered the game as the nation’s leader in three-pointers per game, was held to 9-of-26 shooting beyond the arc—only the third time the Keydets did not reach 10-plus threes this season. But VMI was able to convert 21 of 27 from the free-throw line and held the advantage on the boards, 42-35. VMI, which scored 91 points in Thursday’s game at Mercer, hit the 90-point mark for the second straight game and fifth time this season.
The Keydets also got much-needed bench scoring from Cooper Sisco ’25, guard, who scored eight points in 8-plus minutes of action points, including five points in the final 3:40 of regulation. It was the most game action Sisco had seen since November.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at vmikeydets.com.