Ester scored eight of UTC's first 15 points against Virginia Military Institute, helping the Mocs jump to a 20-3 lead. They shot 71 percent from the floor on their way to building a 29-point halftime lead and cruised to an 85-59 win over the Keydets in front of 3,589 at McKenzie Arena.
The win was the 24th of the season for the Mocs, setting a program regular-season record. They improved to 13-2 in the Southern Conference and can clinch at least a share of the regular-season title Saturday when they host UNC Greensboro at 5.
Dee Oldham finished with a career-high 14 points for the Mocs. Ester tied his career high with 13 points, while Tre' McLean scored 12 and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the season and second consecutive. He also handed out four of the team's 21 assists.
"I just came out aggressive. I told the coach and team I was going to come out aggressive," Ester said. "We have players on this team, and it can be anyone's night. Everyone on this team can shoot; it was just one of those nights that the ball was going in."
Justin Tuoyo finished with 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and four blocks, while Greg Pryor had a team-high six assists to go along with seven points. Both Eric Robertson and Duke Ethridge scored eight.
UTC limited the Keydets (7-18, 2-12) to 30 percent shooting in the first half and 35 percent for the game. Five of the Mocs' last seven opponents have shot less than 40 percent from the field, and five consecutive opponents have failed to make 30 percent of their 3-point attempts.
VMI's QJ Peterson scored 24 points on a variety of drives and jumpers, making half of his 14 shots. He added six assists.
Phillip Anglade had 13 points.
The UTC lead reached 40 on a dunk by Ester that capped a 15-4 run to start the second half and didn't dip below 24 the rest of the way.
"I thought our guys came with the right focus and right mentality," UTC coach Matt McCall said. "Anyone can beat anyone on any given night if you don't have the right focus and the right mentality.
"I thought our guys had a businesslike win tonight. They handled business, so I was proud of them."
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