Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

January 5, 2014

West Alabama falls on visit against Valdosta State basketball

VALDOSTA — The Valdosta State Blazers (8-1) overcame foul trouble and poor second half shooting to knock off the West Alabama Tigers (5-5) 93-83 Saturday night.

Leading by as many 16 points in the game, the Blazers struggled to contain the Tigers’ penetration in the second half.

“I thought it was a great effort,” Blazers head coach Mike Helfer said. “We showed a lot of heart, a lot of character when a team comes back on you and takes the lead. It’s hard to get back and I thought our guys really hung tough. We really just played with some mental toughness in those stretches.”

Gulf South Conference leader in blocks, Blazer Colin Cook was saddled with four fouls early in the second half and the Tigers took full advantage.

With Cook out of the game, the Tigers exploited the Blazers in the paint. UWA senior point guard Desmond Raymond scored 21 of his 28 points in the second half with a flurry of forays to the basket and momentum-changing three-pointers.

“When you take a 6’9” shot blocker out of the middle, obviously it opens things up,” Helfer said. “[West Alabama] was good at driving it to the rim—they’re all long and lanky. They can finish at the rim and I thought they had a great game plan.”

“Losing Cook hurt us, but I was proud of Jarod [Leonard], who came in and gave us good minutes. I thought we did a good job as a group.”

    UWA rallied to take a 66-63 lead with 10:25 to go in the game on a layup by senior guard-forward Sandy Underwood.

The Tigers’ lead was short-lived as sophomore guard Blake Justice picked the pocket of UWA guard Aaron Cobb and fed Murray for a three-pointer in transition to give the Blazers a 72-69 lead. The Blazers would not trail again in the contest.

“When Cook fouled out, we had some guys step up and play pretty big,” senior forward David Murray said. “We weathered the storm.”

The Blazers led 49-37 at halftime behind 16 points by Jalen Crawford, who made 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. UWA forward Leon Tillman scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first half.

VSU shot 52.8 percent from the floor in the opening frame, while the Tigers shot 43.8 percent.

The Blazers were led by Crawford’s 25 points. Leonard added 14 points. Murray had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Jeremy McKay chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds.

UWA got a game-high 28 points from Raymond as well as 19 points and 10 rebounds from Tillman. Guard Jarell Byrd added 14 points and seven rebounds and forward Mychal Bester poured in 10 for the Tigers.

The Blazers will have a day to catch their breath before GSC powerhouse Alabama-Huntsville (6-5) visits The Complex on Monday.

“They’re very good,” Helfer said. “They’ve won for years and I expect them to come in well-prepared. I don’t think there’s going to be many GSC games that will be runaways. Hopefully, we can make a few stop down the stretch. You just never know.”

Tip-off for Monday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. following the Lady Blazers’ tip at 5 p.m.

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