The Valdosta Daily Times
FORT VALLEY —
In a rematch of a first round game from last season’s NCAA Tournament, Valdosta State’s women’s basketball team beat Fort Valley State again, this time by a score of 66-55.
Sophomore Kourtnee Williams and senior Brittney Nelson combined for 33 points to lead the Lady Blazers past the Wildcats.
Those two led in scoring, but it was a team effort for the win. In addition to Williams and Nelson, Kamyia Smith and Courtney Sprague also finished with double figures, 13 and 10 respectively. Smith added five assists, while Sprague joined Nelson with four assists each. Nelson added 13 rebounds to her 16 points and four assists.
The Lady Blazers shot 52 percent in the second half to finish the game at 42.6 percent overall. Valdosta State was deadly from long range as well, knocking down eight of 18 three-pointers for 44.4 percent shooting.
The vaunted VSU defense held Fort Valley State to a mere 25.4 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Valdosta State fought an uphill battle from the beginning as the Lady Blazers only played eight players while 13 Wildcats played. There was also a 26-9 free throw discrepancy in FVSU’s favor.
Despite that, the Lady Blazers pressed on and scored eight more points in the paint than Fort Valley State, 20-18.
Valdosta State started strong with back to back three-pointers from guards Williams and Smith to follow the first basket, a short corner jumper, from Nelson for an early 8-1 lead.
However, Fort Valley State, through a combination of free throws and field goals, answered back with an 8-0 run to take a 9-8 lead just over five minutes into the game. Kaylee Higginbotham finally broke the FVSU run with a turnaround jumper in the lane.
Higginbotham followed that with another basket to be the first Lady Blazer with multiple field goals. After that, Smith found her for another two points to make it six consecutive points for Higginbotham.
After that, VSU went on a 9-2 run. Ivana Domljanovic started it with a basket followed by a three ball from Nelson to get the ball rolling. Nelson dropped another basket followed by one from Williams.
Fort Valley State broke the run with a jumper from Erin-Alexis Stubbs, but the Lady Blazers answered with a 7-0 run to end the half up 30-22 despite trailing by four with just under seven minutes left to play in the frame. The combined runs made it a 16-4 run for Valdosta State the last eight minutes of the half.
Sprague started the final run of the half before Williams scored the final five to finish the opening period with a team high 10 points. Nelson had seven points, eight rebounds and three assists while Smith added three assists. Higginbotham blocked two shots to add to her six first half points.
The Lady Blazer defense shot 36.1 percent overall in the first half and 40 percent from long range, hitting four of 10 attempts. The notorious VSU defense held the Wildcats to just 23.1 percent overall and two of nine from long range.
Fort Valley State started the half with two traditional three-point plays while Williams buried another three for VSU and Smith scored on a lay-up down the left side. Both teams knocked down long balls, but Smith, playing much more aggressive in the second half, drew a foul for two free throws.
After Smith snagged two points from the charity stripe, Williams found Higginbotham with a nifty pass for two more and a 42-31 lead just under six minutes into the second half, forcing a timeout from FVSU.
Valdosta State was able to maintain a 10-point lead, give or take, throughout the second half, with defensive hustle, good shooting and aggressive drives.
The Lady Blazers will stay on the road for their next game against Georgia Southwestern on Saturday.