VMI coach Duggar Baucom spent much of Wednesday night standing in front of his bench, hands in his pockets and just watching what was taking place in front of him at the Winthrop Coliseum.
It wasn't pretty, and Baucom couldn't do a thing about it.
With Reggie Williams, who averages 27 points and almost 10 rebounds a game, sitting on the bench unable to play, Winthrop's Eagles took full advantage and pounded the Keydets 85-41.
Without Williams, who injured his left leg on Tuesday and reinjured it at Wednesday morning's shoot around, the nation's highest scoring team was held 56 points below its average. Meanwhile, the Eagles hit a season high for points and held the Keydets to their lowest point total since a 42-39 loss to Coastal Carolina in January 2004.
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More importantly for Winthrop (12-7, 3-1), the win kept the Eagles a game back of UNC Asheville, which beat Radford on Wednesday night, in the conference race. The loss dropped the Keydets, who a week ago were unbeaten and tied for first, to 10-8, 2-2.
"This wasn't like having like a gun and no bullets," Baucom said. "This was having bullets and no gun.
"And Winthrop has a nice team. If you play 30 percent (on effort), they can beat you down, and that's what happened."
The Eagles got a career night from freshman point guard Justin Burton, who had 16 points in 19 minutes. Mantoris Robinson added a career-high 18 points, his second straight double-figure game. Taj McCullough dumped in 13, six coming on three straight dunks in the second half. Andy Buechert added a career-high 12 rebounds.
Burton, who hit 6-of-10 shots, including 4-of-4 3-pointers, said the game plan would have been the same with or without Williams.
"We still had to play our game," Burton said. "We couldn't let up, because we knew they'd been down by 25 at Coastal and came back. We still had to shut them down."
Burton was also key in getting open looks against the zone.
"If you're left open," he said, "you've got to have the confidence to step up and take the shot. That's what we did."
The Eagles hit 36-of-75 shots and had 23 assists, with every Eagle picking up at least one.
Robinson, who Winthrop coach Randy Peele believes is the best defensive player in the league, and Michael Jenkins put a defensive number on the Holmes twins, Travis and Chavis, who are from Charlotte.
"We got no performance from the twins," Baucom said, "and without Reggie playing, they had an opportunity."
The Eagles didn't give them one.
"Defensively," Peele said, "we were good. Our goal with Reggie playing was to try and hold them to 60 points and that would have been difficult. At the half, when we knew he wasn't going to play, I adjusted that to 42. That's why we were still going at it pretty good at the end."
Without Williams, Peele said, VMI didn't have the weapon to make plays off the dribble and Robinson and Jenkins did good jobs of locating the Holmes brothers in transition.
Plus, they didn't fall into the trap of taking the first open shot. They were patient against the Keydets' passive 2-3 zone and got a bunch of looks in the lane.
"We had to turn down some shots," Peele said, "and we did a good job with that."
With Williams sitting on the end of the bench all but unable to bend his left leg, the Keydets might as well have been hunting bear with a switch. Without Williams to terrorize the defense and get on the boards, the Keydets were easy to guard.
And the fast-paced offense ran without a rudder. VMI turned the ball over 25 times, hit just 11-of-49 shots and only 6-of-30 3-pointers. They were 5-of-26 in the first half, 19.2 percent.
They managed to score on back-to-back possessions just twice and had four stretches when they went six minutes or more without a field goal.
Not one Keydet scored in double figures.
Throw in a 56-30 edge on the boards for the Eagles, and you can understand what a long night it was for Baucom.
"We had a defensive play set up off the opening tap," Baucom said. "We missed it, and it was downhill from there.
"There was nothing I could do. I hate it for the fans. We weren't the same team that scored 47 points in nine minutes (in a comeback win) at Coastal, or the team that had won two games on the road."
While Baucom said he probably won't spend much time watching the tape on this one, Peele said his team needed to learn from it.
"This was a workmanlike effort," he said. "It's a long season. This is a good win, but we've got to be mentally more focused on what we do."