Stan Okoye scored 23 points to lead Virginia Military Institute past Winthrop 78-71 on Tuesday night in the first round of the Big South tournament.
The Keydets (18-12), the fourth seed, will play No. 1 seed and host Coastal Carolina in the semifinals on Thursday.
VMI trailed 27-26 with 4:05 left in the first half, before going on a 12-3 run that stretched into the second half. Okoye's 3 put the Keydets up 39-29 with 18:22 remaining.
VMI led the rest of the way, but the Eagles (13-17) made it a two-point game, 75-73, on Andre Jones' 3 with 37 seconds left. The Keydets then went 3 of 4 from the free-throw line and Winthrop missed two 3-pointers the rest of the way to seal it.
Ron Burks added 14 points and Austin Kenon 11 for VMI, which was 10 of 25 from 3-point range, compared to 5 of 20 by the Eagles.
Charles Corbin led Winthrop with 19 points and 12 rebounds.