Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

January 23, 2014

Daunting challenge

VSU basketball teams host ranked foes in Delta State

VALDOSTA — Both Valdosta State basketball teams have yet to lose at The Complex, but those perfect records will be tested tonight against visiting Delta State.

The VSU women return to The Complex tonight at 6 to take on No. 10 ranked Delta State in a Gulf South Conference showdown.

Valdosta State is looking to build some momentum with two straight home games coming on the heels of a disappointing road trip. The Blazers dropped three straight games before snapping the streak with a 71-59 win against Shorter on Jan. 18.

While VSU has been below average on the road this season at 2-5, the Blazers have been a different team at home, racking up a 7-0 record against visiting teams.

Delta State isn't just any team, though.

The Statesmen are undefeated on the road, as are they at home, with their only loss to Lynn University at a neutral site. Since that loss, Delta State has won 12 consecutive games coming into tonight's contest which will provide VSU with its toughest home test yet.

April Thomas has been the engine that has made the Blazers go thus far in the season. The Albany State transfer has settled into her sixth man role at VSU and she is producing. Thomas averages 15.4 points per game while shooting .42. 2 percent from the 3-point line to lead the Blazers in scoring.

Delta State will counter Thomas with the devastating combination of Seneca Walton and Chelsey Rhodes.

Walton leads the team in scoring and rebounds with 14.6 and 9.4, respectively. No one on the VSU roster averages even five rebounds a game which will make the 6-foot-1 Walton tough to keep off the boards.

If the Blazers can manage to contain Walton, they still have to worry about Rhodes, who averages 14.5 points per game on her own.

VSU men attempt to take down No. 20 Delta

After five consecutive road contests, Valdosta State is relieved to be back in the friendly confounds of The Complex, but the Blazers can't relax yet as they face their greatest challenge of the season so far, the 14-2 Delta State Statesmen at 8 tonight.

The Blazers haven't played at home since Jan. 6 and they haven't played in front of Valdosta State's student body since defeating Johnson C. Smith on Nov. 23.

VSU has struggled since taking to the road. After beginning the season 9-1, the Blazers only managed to go 1-4 on a Gulf South Conference road trip against North Alabama, Union, West Georgia and Shorter with the sole win coming in Carrollton.

Delta State is a different beast though. The Statesmen are ranked No. 20 in Division II, their highest ranking since the 2008-2009 season, and one of their losses this season came from the No. 2 Florida Southern.

Delta State also has the luxury of one of the GSC's best players on the roster.

Senior forward Willie Readus scores 19.9 points per game — highest in the GSC — on 51.9 percent shooting from the field and 75.5 percent from the free throw line.

Readus also leads the GSC with 10.6 rebounds a game — at 6-7, Readus is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams.

VSU will look to counter Readus with a talented forward of its own.

David Murray is the third-leading rebounder in the GSC with 10.2 rebounds. Murray, who had 20 points against Shorter, needs to have a big game for VSU to keep up with Delta State.

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