LEXINGTON, Va. – Julian Eleby scored 27 of his game-high 31 points in the second half to lead VMI to an 88-83 comeback win over Charleston Southern on Tuesday at Cameron Hall.
CSU (4-5) led by as much as 12 points in the first half and was in front for the first 32:42 of the game before VMI (2-7) went ahead for good on an Adrian Rich layup. The Bucs had responded to numerous Keydet challenges prior to that, pushing a one-point halftime advantage to nine at the 11:58 mark on an Antwan Maxwell three-pointer.
Eleby followed Rich's layup with a steal and score, and buried one of his five threes to quickly pad the VMI lead to 70-63 during the decisive juncture. CSU clawed back to within three and two over the ensuing minute but another Eleby triple reinstated the Keydets' two possession cushion for the remainder of the contest.
Eleby's red hot shooting paced four Keydets in double figures, as they connected on 12-of-25 attempts from beyond the arc. QJ Peterson sparked VMI back into the game with a scoring spree late in the opening stanza, and recorded a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds.
CSU matched a season-high with 13 threes, led by five from Armel Potter. Potter finished with 22 points to go over the 20-point plateau for the fourth time this year. Christian Keeling came off the bench to notch 13 of his 17 points at the foul line. Cortez Mitchell added 12, including eight in the opening minutes to help CSU forge a 13-3 lead.
The matchup was the first between the former Big South Conference mates since VMI re-joined the Southern Conference prior to the 2013-14 season. CSU will play the middle leg of a challenging three-game road trip Saturday at Georgia. Tipoff is at 1 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
Peterson scored 11 points over the final 4:54 of the first half to help VMI whittle a 34-22 deficit to 39-38 at intermission. CSU would not give up the advantage easily, though, with treys from Patrick Wallace and Potter keeping VMI at bay early in the second half. Both shots came after the Bucs' lead had been sliced to one.
Raemond Robinson and Maxwell sandwiched threes around a jumper by Javis Howard to give CSU its biggest lead of the second half, 59-50, with 11:58 left. Eleby then proceeded to score 13 points during VMI's game-changing 20-4 run. The Bucs struggled to score from the field for much of the latter part of the period but stayed in the game at the charity stripe, converting 20 of 27 tries overall.
CSU played very well for much of the first half to put itself in position for a road win. Mitchell sailed home back-to-back threes and a long two-point shot to highlight a 13-3 start. Keeling played the leading role later in the half, tallying eight straight points to increase the Bucs' lead to 34-22 before Peterson found the hot hand for VMI. In between, freshman Jordan Jones gave CSU some quality minutes. Jones highlighted his time with a spinning left-handed bank shot off a pretty feed from Mitchell, and then threw down a dunk in transition.