LEXINGTON, Va. - Cliff Decoster scored 19 points and Renaldo Johnson and Ryan Lawson each scored 11 to lead East Tennessee State to a 74-60 win over VMI Wednesday night at Cameron Hall.
VMI trailed 62-56 after Richard Bruce hit a layup with 5:05 left, but the Bucs reeled off 11 unanswered points to seize control of the game and post their sixth straight win - the longest win streak under head coach Ed Dechellis and the longest since the 1994-95 season.
The Bucs pressured the basketball with tight defense all game and forced VMI into 23 turnovers - the most by a Keydet team in six games and one off the season high of 24 committed against Appalachian State on January 3.
ETSU assembled their 11-0 clinching run by hitting seven of eight free throws that were sandwiched around layups by DeCoster and Johnson. The Bucs meanwhile shut down the Keydets on the defensive side of the floor - limited VMI to just one field goal over the last 5:04. VMI's Mark Grigsby hit a jumper with :46 left, but the game was well decided before that score.
The Bucs, using a potent double-team all night, limited VMI star center Eric Mann to just three points and snapped his double figures scoring string at 10 games. ETSU also limited VMI to 39.6% shooting, marking the fourth straight game the Bucs had held an opoonent under 40% from the field.
East Tennessee State took its biggest lead of the first half, 39-32, when Decoster hit a free throw with 2:20 left. VMI answered with a 6-0 run and trailed by a 39-32 count at intermisson. The Keydets continued their scoring run by opening the second half with a pair of free throws by Pressley and a layup by Mann to cut it to 39-36 with 19:02 left, but that would be the closest the Keydets would come the rest of the night.
ETSU, led by Adrian Meeks' 10 rebounds, outrebounded the Keydets 36-33 for the game and became only the fifth opponent to out rebound the Keydets over the last 15 games. Meeks has grabbed 21 rebounds over his last two contests.
VMI was led by Nick Richardson who scored a season-high 18 points with seven rebounds. Daron Pressley scored 13 points and Radee Skipworth added 10 for the Keydets, who dropped their fourth straight.
ETSU (11-7, 6-1) next faces Appalachain State Saturday in Boone at 1:00 p.m. VMI (5-12, 2-5) travels to Western Carolina Saturday night to play Western Carolina at 7:00 p.m.