It was a tale of two very different halves for the Valdosta State Blazers Tuesday night.
Fort Valley State outscored the Blazers by 12 points in the first half, and built a double-digit halftime lead. But VSU outscored the Wildcats by 23 points in the second half, shot 59.4 percent from the floor and walked off the basketball court with an 83-72 win at The Complex.
Valdosta State improved to 7-1 this season.
The Blazers came out cold in the first half, only shooting 27.5 percent from the floor and 18.2 percent from three-point range. They also turned the ball over 10 times. Fort Valley, meanwhile, shot 43.6 percent and 31.3 percent from behind the arc. The big difference in shooting percentage resulted in a big difference on the scoreboard. At halftime, the Wildcats held a 39-27 lead.
“We played an uninspired first half, and all the credit goes to Fort Valley for coming in here and really taking control of the game,” Valdosta State head coach Mike Helfer said.
In the locker room at halftime, Helfer didn’t change much. He just told his team it needed to play its style of basketball in the second half. And the Blazers did.
“I think our kids adjusted at halftime,” VSU’s coach said. “(That is) a credit to our players. It had nothing to do with coaching. They had to basically get in gear and get going. ... We got a chance to get (some) better looks in the second half, and I thought we played with a much better motor in the second half.
“We didn’t change much. We just changed our effort.”
The Blazers returned to the floor in the second half ready to go, and it took less than five minutes for the Blazers to erase their deficit.
Trailing 41-33, VSU’s James Anacreon made two free throws, then made a layup on his team’s next trip down the floor. Patrick Diop’s layup 29 seconds later made it a four-point game, 41-37. Fort Valley’s Corey Hunter made a three-pointer, and Diop answered with a pair of free throws.
Then came a quick run that enabled the Blazers to take their first lead in more than 20 minutes. Shaquille Harris made a layup. Then Josh Sparks stole the ball, ran down the court and the laid the ball in with a finger roll, making it a one-point game, 44-43. Fort Valley coach Samuel Jackson immediately called a timeout, and when the FVSU players started heading to the bench, Hunter threw the ball down the court and was hit with a technical foul.
After the timeout, Anacreon made both of the free throws from the technical, giving the Blazers the lead. VSU got possession of the ball, and David Murray drained a three-pointer, making it 48-44. Valdosta State had essentially scored seven straight points without Fort Valley even having a possession, and turned a three-point deficit into a four-point lead.
Fort Valley bounced back and tied the score at 49-49. The game was close for the next five minutes, and included four ties. The Wildcats briefly took a four-point lead, 58-54.
But then with 9:20 left in the game, the Blazers went on another run, and took the lead for good. Harris made two free throws. Anacreon’s tip-in tied the score at 58-58. Then Anacreon stole the ball and raced in for a layup, giving the Blazers a 60-58 lead.
Then Diop temporarily took over the game. He made a free throw. Then he buried three-pointers on back-to-back possessions. Then after Alan Love’s steal, Diop got the ball behind the arc again, and drained another three-pointer. Diop’s 10 straight points gave the Blazers a 12-point lead, 70-58, with 4:44 left in the game.
Fort Valley State never got any closer than nine points the rest of the way. The teams traded shots for the rest of the game, and the Blazers walked away with an 11-point win.
Anacreon led all scorers with 22 points. Diop had 20 points. Sparks, who was named the Gulf South Conference Player of the Week on Tuesday, added 10 points for the Blazers.
Brandon Davey and Nigel Domineck scored 13 points apiece for Fort Valley.
Valdosta State women 56, Fort Valley State 51, OT
Brittney Nelson made five of her first seven three-point attempts on Tuesday night. Then, with the game on the line, she buried another one.
Nelson’s three-pointer with 26.6 seconds left in overtime gave Valdosta State a 54-51 lead, and Kourtnee Williams’ free throws with 5.8 seconds to go sealed the victory.
“We did some good things, especially in the overtime period, defensively. We made some defensive stops,” Lady Blazers head coach Kiley Hill said. “We had some kids step up and play some great minutes.”
A layup by Fort Valley’s Dominique Collier with 44 seconds left in overtime tied the score at 51-51. After a 30-second timeout, Valdosta State brought the ball up the floor, and passed it around, looking for a good shot. Finally the ball went to Nelson behind the arc, and the senior forward didn’t hesitate. She let another three-point shot fly, and the ball went right where she wanted it to go — into the middle of the basket. That gave the Lady Blazers a 54-51 lead.
Fort Valley’s Dambria Thomas tried to drive towards the basket, but a VSU player got a hand on the ball, knocked it off Thomas’ leg and the ball went out of bounds. The Lady Blazers were awarded the ball with 15 seconds left, and Williams put the game away with her two free throws.
Nelson had quite a day on Tuesday. She started the day back home in Michigan, where she had spent a couple of days for family reasons. She got on a plane Tuesday morning and spent much of the day traveling back to Valdosta. When her plane touched down in Valdosta, she headed straight to The Complex and arrived about 90 minutes before tip-off. Then she put on her uniform and went out and played one of the best games of her Lady Blazer career. She scored a game-high 24 points for VSU. She made 9 of the 12 shots she attempted, including 6 of 8 three-point attempts, and also grabbed eight rebounds.
“I thought Brittney Nelson played some great minutes tonight,” Hill said. “She did some big things throughout the course of the game.”
Tuesday’s game was a close game throughout. There were nine ties and nine lead changes.
Fort Valley led most of the first half, but its biggest lead was just five points. The Lady Wildcats held a 27-24 lead at halftime.
With 14:12 left in regulation and her team trailing 33-29, Nelson made a three-pointer. Williams’ jumper gave VSU its first lead of the second half, 34-33, and Courtney Sprague’s layup 25 seconds later made it 36-33.
After a Fort Valley State basket, Williams made a three-pointer. Ninety-six seconds later, Nelson made a layup. Then Brooke Satterfield made a free throw and Sprague closed out a 15-2 VSU run with a layup. That gave the Lady Blazers their biggest lead of the night, 44-35, with 6:58 left in regulation.
But Fort Valley worked its way back into the game, scoring 12 of the next 15 points, and Briana Shepherd’s jumper with 3:01 left tied the score at 47-47. VSU regained the lead with two free throws by Williams with 1:35 left, but Shepherd’s jumper with 49 seconds to go tied the score at 49-49.
Both teams had opportunities to win the game in regulation, including a three-point shot by Sprague that rimmed out, but neither team could convert, so the game went into overtime.
Both teams managed just two points in the first four minutes of overtime. But then Nelson delivered her clutch three-pointer, and the Lady Blazers walked off the court victorious.
Williams scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds for VSU, while playing all 45 minutes. Shepherd led Fort Valley with 13 points, while Collier added 12.
VSU dominates 2nd half, beats Fort Valley 83-72
It was a tale of two very different halves for the Valdosta State Blazers Tuesday night.
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