VMI won 75-55, and advanced to Saturday’s conference final (noon, ESPN2) against top-seeded UNC Asheville (23-9, 16-2 Big South). Saturday’s winner will secure the Big South’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. As the conference’s regular season champion, UNC Asheville is guaranteed a bid to the NIT should it lose to VMI on Saturday, while a loss on Saturday would probably end VMI’s season.
The Keydets stormed to victory over Winthrop behind a great game from sophomore D.J. Covington (Virginia Beach / Norfolk Academy). Covington scored 16 points in 20 minutes, shooting a perfect 6-6 from the floor and a flawless 4-4 from the line. He also grabbed three rebounds and blocked four shots before fouling out.
Covington, last year’s Big South freshman of the year, has been limited by a back injury this season (two herniated discs, according to last night’s ESPNU telecast). Because of the injury, Covington has appeared in only 23 games, averaging 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game (down from averages of 9.1 and 5.3 last year).
VMI freshman Quinton Upshur (Norfolk / Booker T. Washington) chipped in for the Keydets with eight points, two rebounds, and four steals in 29 minutes. For the season, Upshur averages 5.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game and has made 13 starts.
By defeating Winthrop, VMI ended the season for senior guard Andre Jones (Suffolk / Nansemond River). Jones had a scalding first half against VMI with 12 points, but played only 13 minutes in the second half due to foul trouble. Jones finished the game with 14 points and three rebounds. Jones had an excellent senior year; he started all 32 of Winthrop’s games and led the team in scoring with an average of 16.0 points per game. Jones also led the Eagles with 53 made three-pointers, shooting 34.0% from beyond the arc. Jones scored his 1,000th career point this year and concludes his career with a total of 1,288.
In quarterfinal action on Wednesday, Jones scored 14 points (4-9 from three-point range) as Winthrop upset third-seeded Campbell 71-55. Campbell (17-15, 11-7 Big South) features this year’s Big South freshman of the year, Trey Freeman (Virginia Beach / Kellam). Winthrop held Freeman to six points, but he averaged 13.9 points and 3.8 assists per game this season.
Also eliminated in Wednesday quarterfinal action was High Point University (13-18, 8-10 Big South), which fell to UNC Asheville 86-61. Redshirt junior forward Corey Law (Chesapeake / Deep Creek) scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Panthers in the loss. Law appeared in 30 of the Panthers’ 31 games this season, starting 20 times. Law averaged 9.5 points per game and led High Point in rebounding with 7.2 boards per game. Law has led the team in rebounds per game in each of his three seasons at High Point.
Local fans need not worry, though; the 757 will still be represented on both sides of the action in Saturday’s final. UNC Asheville freshman guard Keith Hornsby (4.2 ppg this year in just 13.1 minutes per game) graduated from Oak Hill but calls Williamsburg home.