VALDOSTA — From a surface view, No. 8 Valdosta State simply recorded a ho-hum 76-47 victory against an overmatched Albany State at The Complex.
But upon closer inspection, the Blazers’ blowout of the Golden Rams serves as an early warning sign to the rest of the nation as to just how good VSU can be.
Valdosta State (2-0) shot just 37.9 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from distance over the course of the game, and had more turnovers (12) than assists (11), yet still beat Albany State (0-2) by nearly 30 points.
The Blazers shot even worse in the first half, shooting just 10-of-31 from the field and an ugly 3-of-13 from the field, but they managed to keep the Golden Rams from ever truly threatening by corralling 10 offensive rebounds and shooting 14-of-16 from the free throw line.
“That’s kind of what we talked about in the locker room at halftime,” said VSU head coach Carly Kuhns. “We’re still up 10 and they haven’t seen any of our best basketball yet. Imagine if we’re hitting some of these shots.
“I felt like we were turning down shots in the paint for kick-out 3s. We’ve got to take care of those opportunities because we weren’t shooting the ball well. There was a reason we were going inside.”
Coming out of the locker rooms at halftime, it didn’t look like much had changed.
Six minutes through the third, it appeared as if the Blazers would be content with cruising to the win. Over the final four minutes of the quarter, VSU went on a 9-0 as it began to flash its devastating potential.
Madi Mitchell sank two consecutive shots, Aaliyah Cheatham knocked down the Blazers only 3-pointer of the quarter, and Taylor Buie hit two free throws to send VSU into the final quarter with a 17-point advantage.
Although the game’s outcome had long been decided, the Blazers gave the fans at The Complex a quick glimpse of the team expected to compete on the national stage this season.
Valdosta State shot 4-of-9 from the 3-point line in the fourth quarter as its lead ballooned to as many as 30, before the Blazers rolled out the final members of a bench that went a legitimate 10-players deep Saturday.
“It’s going to be scary if we can put this thing altogether,” Kuhns said. “But we talked about this a lot last year, this is going to be a process.
“We don’t want to be playing our best basketball now. We want to be playing our best basketball in February and March. So, we’ve got to learn from our mistakes early and be better every game.”
Preseason All-Gulf South Conference team member Kenya Samone’ Dixon finished with a double-double on a game-high 13 points and 10 rebounds and Maddy Corazza finished one-point shy with nine points and 12 rebounds.
Buie and Cheatham each contributed 12 points, and Madi Mitchell, another preseason all-conference team member, had nine points and two rebounds in just 10 minutes.
Kuhns also noted the team received really good minutes from Kendra Green off the bench. She had five points and seven rebounds (six offensive) in 16 minutes.
Saturday showed just how deep Valdosta State is after returning all of its starters from a year ago and adding to the roster this offseason.
“It’s a very competitive environment,” Kuhns said. “It makes it fun in practice, because you’ve got to bring it every day, or someone’s going to take your minutes.
“That’s the good thing though. We can have different people step up night-in and night-out and make plays.”
Derrick Davis is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.