The Valdosta Daily Times
Back on their home floor for the first time in 17 days, the Valdosta State women’s basketball team was looking to protect its home floor and take advantage of its home crowd.
Unfortunately for VSU, Christian Brothers didn’t get the memo, and clearly didn’t care.
Despite entering Thursday’s game with a lackluster 4-11 record, the Lady Buccaneers put together a solid road showing, connecting on 39 percent from the floor, to secure a 60-52 win over the Lady Blazers.
“The difference was our complete lack of mental and physical focus,” Valdosta State head coach Kiley Hill said. “Give some credit to (Christian Brothers), they did some good things, but we completely forgot what we worked on and where people were supposed to go.
“We are completely oblivious to what we are trying to accomplish. No one on our current team is willing to be a leader on the floor. …. Right now, I’m upset. There are two things I ask for: maximum effort and playing through possessions. We didn’t do either one of those consistently tonight.”
Three different Lady Bucs scored in double figures Thursday night, while the Lady Blazers had just one — Courtney Sprague, who finished with 14 points.
Taylor Pugh led the Lady Bucs, finishing with a season-high 19 points and 12 rebounds in the win.
Valdosta State struggled from the floor, shooting 30 percent (17 of 55) and just 5 of 25 from 3-point range.
“We are not supposed to settle for threes,” Hill said. “Offensively, with what we are trying to accomplish, we decided to just stand around and watch.”
Valdosta State led by as many as six points in the first half, building an 11-5 advantage, just minutes into the game. From there, Christian Brothers went on a 23-13 run to build a 28-24 lead at the half.
Things got worse for the Lady Blazers in the second half. Christian Brothers connected on its first four field goals of the half and used a 9-0 run to build a 37-24 lead.
“The first possession of the second half we gave up three or four offensive rebounds,” Hill said. “Our heart wasn’t in it. If you don’t want to board, you don’t want to block out, you don’t want to do the dirty work? You have to scrap.”
VSU’s Jasmine Mapp ended the bleeding for the Lady Blazers, connecting on a 3-pointer from the left corner to bring VSU within 10.
That’s when Christian Brothers took off, using a 6-0 run to build a 16-point lead.
Pugh started the 6-0 run with a jumper in the paint and followed it up with back-to-back layups.
After a basket by Ivana Domljanovich, Pugh connected on another shot that put the CBU lead back at 16.
The Lady Blazers then made a run. Brittney Nelson drained a three, followed by a free throw on the next possession. Then, a few possessions later, Nelson found Sprague in the wing, who connected and brought VSU’s deficit to 11, 45-34, with 6:06 to play.
After Pugh connected on another field goal for the Lady Bucs, VSU’s Ashley Johnson made a pair of free throws to bring the deficit back to 11, 47-36. A possession later, Sprague sank a pair of free throws to bring the deficit to single digits with 4:27 remaining.
“Four minutes to play, it is a three-possession ball game and we give up an offensive board, we miss the front end of a one-and-one, another one-and-one, and miss two layups and don’t execute our offensive setting,” Hill said.
That was the closest the Lady Blazers would get until the final basket of the game, when Mapp banked a meaningless shot off the glass as the buzzer sounded. Christian Brothers used a pair of free throws, followed by a three-pointer to push the lead back to back to 14 points with 3:40 remaining.