March 7, 2009

RADFORD, Va. (AP) -Artsiom Parakhouski had 26 points and 18 rebounds and Radford beat VMI 108-94 on Saturday to win its first Big South Conference championship in 11 years.

The Highlanders (21-11) took command with a 13-3 second-half run, turning a two-point deficit into an eight-point lead, and earned their second trip to the NCAA tournament. The victory, earned on their home court as the top seed, was their 17th in the last 19 games.

VMI (24-8), seeking its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1977, came up short because it had no answer for the 6-foot-11 Parakhouski and Radford's other big players.

Radford outscored the Keydets 64-22 in the paint as Joey Lynch-Flohr added 17 points and 11 rebounds, Chris McEachin scored 18 points, Amir Johnson 16 and Kenny Thomas had 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Highlanders outrebounded VMI 57-31 and had 19 offensive boards.

Austin Kenon hit eight 3-pointers and scored 34 points, both career highs, to lead the Keydets, while Chavis Holmes added 21 points. VMI, which shot just 38 percent, closed within 74-70 with 8:40 left, but the Highlanders used a 9-2 to rebuild their lead.

After that, it was just a matter of making free throws, and Radford was 22-for-32 in the second half, easily preventing the 3-point crazy Keydets from even drawing close.

VMI finished 16-for-50 from 3-point range.

VMI led 58-56 before Parakhouski and Thomas scored on consecutive putbacks. After Keith Garbriel's 3-pointer gave VMI a 61-60 lead, Parakhouski and Thomas again both scored inside, Parakhouski made a free throw and Phil Martin and Lynch-Flohr added inside baskets.

It was 69-61, and the sellout crowd at Radford's Dedmon Center was roaring.

When it was over, fans turned the court into a sea of red-clad revelers.

Radford played the first half at the Keydets' frenetic pace, and the 6-foot-11 Parakhouski's dominance inside made it work. He had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the half, with six rebounds on the offensive end. Radford scored 36 of it 50 first-half points in the paint and had a 24-10 rebounding advantage and a 15-1 edge on second-chance points.

The Highlanders trailed 13-0 and had five turnovers and just one shot after 2 minutes, but immediately launched a 23-7 run over the next 7 minutes to lead 23-20.

Kenon kept VMI in the game, hitting eight of 12 shots, including six 3-pointers, and scoring 24 points while the rest of the team was just 7-for-20 and committed 13 turnovers.