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November 30, 2012

Lady Blazers drop first game, 69-51

JACKSON, Tenn. — Valdosta State, the last undefeated women’s basketball team in the Gulf South Conference, finally fell Thursday night. Union, a former NAIA power playing in the last four NAIA National Championship games, winning two of them, outshot Valdosta State to win, 69-51. Valdosta State drops to 4-1 overall and 0-1 in Gulf South Conference play while Union improves to 3-3 on the season and 1-0 in the GSC.

Union knocked down 13 three-pointers in the game while scoring 16 points off VSU’s 17 turnovers to earn the victory.

Kourtnee Williams led Valdosta State with 14 points while Kamyia Smith put in a solid effort to finish with nine points, nine rebounds and five assists. Brittney Nelson’s three-game streak of double-doubles came to an end, but she did give four assists as did Courtney Sprague.

The Valdosta State defense held Union’s highest scorer on the season, Amy Philamlee, to just one field goal and seven points, but she gave out seven assists to keep her teammates involved. Astrid Huttemann finished with a game high 19 points while Rebecca Sharpe added 11.

Union came out firing with three three-pointers in the first five minutes of the game. The Lady Blazers answered Union’s first basket of the night with a three ball from Williams, but then went scoreless for three minutes. In that time the Bulldogs built a 9-3 lead.

After a timeout, however, VSU made two quick buckets. Williams found Kaylee Higginbotham running to the basket for an easy lay-up followed by a long ball from Nelson to pull within one, 9-8.

With 11:28 left in the first frame, Sprague helped VSU match the Bulldogs in three-pointers at three each with a rainbow from the corner. After that, Williams tied it up at 15 with a midrange pull-up jumper with just under 10 minutes left in the first half.

Moments later the game was tied at 18, but Union took off on a 17-3 run to build a 14-point lead, 35-21 with 3:32 left in the opening half. The Bulldogs nailed four three-pointers in the run, forcing head coach Kiley Hill to use Valdosta State’s second timeout of the game.

Point guard Smith finally broke the run when Sprague found her for a long ball from the left corner. That was the last basket of the half for VSU with 2:04 remaining. The Bulldogs scored four more points on free throws to claim a 39-24 lead at the half, the largest lead of the game to that point and VSU’s largest deficit of the season.

The Lady Blazers were at a disadvantage at the charity stripe in the opening frame. Union shot 13 free throws to just two for VSU. In addition to the free throws, eight of Union’s 11 made baskets in the first half were from long range, scoring 24 points from beyond the arc.

Despite being more accurate (37.5 percent overall, 41.7 percent from three-point range) VSU only hit five threes of the team’s nine made baskets.

Valdosta State also lost the battle of the boards in the first half, 20-18, allowing 10 offensive boards for six second chance points. The Lady Blazers also coughed the ball up 11 times to just five for Union, leading to 10 Union points off turnovers.

The VSU defense did, however, hold Union’s high scorer Philamlee in check. Averaging 15.2 points per game for the season, the Lady Blazers only gave up three free throws to her just before the half.

Smith led the Lady Blazers coming out of the break with two lay-ups and an assist to Sprague for the first six points of the second half. The early 6-0 run by VSU led to Union’s first timeout of the game.

Union started the half on a five-minute scoreless streak that saw four Bulldog turnovers after just four in the first half. Union’s senior guard Sharpe broke the 6-0 run with a three-pointer from the top of the key. Sharpe’s shot sparked an 8-2 run for Union to push the lead up to 15 points, 47-32, with 11:44 left to play in the game.

After the media timeout, the Lady Blazers went on an 8-0 run with long balls from Nelson and Williams on both sides of a Higginbotham lay-up.

The Bulldogs answered, however, and built another 15-point lead, 55-40, with 7:31 left to play. Union maintained the lead until the game’s leading scorer Huttemann knocked down a dagger from the corner with 4:06 to play for a 62-45 Bulldog lead. She did it again a minute later for Union’s 13th three-pointer of the night.

At that point, the lead was too much for Valdosta State to overcome.

The Lady Blazers will next be in action in Florence, Ala., when VSU faces North Alabama at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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