Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

March 6, 2014

Tournament Time

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State opens play in the 2014 Raymond James Gulf South Conference Tournament today at 6:30 p.m. when the Blazers face off against West Alabama.

Valdosta State enters the event as the No. 7 seed while the Tigers are the No. 2 seed. VSU tallied a 15-11 record on the season, including a 9-11 mark in GSC play. This year's tournament marks the 20th time that VSU has played in the GSC Tournament, where it has compiled a 14-19 record over the years.

The Blazers and UWA split a pair of games this year, with each team winning on its home court. VSU struck first as it defeated West Alabama 93-83 in The Complex on Jan. 4 while the Tigers rebounded for a 72-68 win in Livingston, Ala. on Feb. 6.

Blazer Head Coach Mike Helfer has led Valdosta State to the GSC Tournament in each of his nine seasons, having compiled an 8-8 record over the course of the previous eight years.

Helfer has directed the Blazers to a pair of tournament championship games, including last year when the club entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed.

VSU defeated No. 5 Delta State in the first round and No. 1 Alabama-Huntsville in the semifinals before falling 65-62 to No. 2 Christian Brothers in the title game.

Only three players on the Valdosta State roster have previously played in the GSC Tournament. David Murray appeared in all three games last year and was named to the All-Tournament team as he scored 25 points and had 10 rebounds in the first two games of the event. Murray scored four points in the first six minutes of the championship game before going down to an injury that kept him out of the remainder of the game.

Meanwhile, Colin Cook saw limited time in all three games a year ago while Dylan Nsiah played sparingly in the championship game versus CBU.

This season, Valdosta State enters the tournament averaging 77.0 points per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the floor. The Blazers take care of the ball, a must in tournament play, as they commit just 11.3 turnovers per game, and lead the Gulf South Conference in blocked shots with 3.7 per outing.

Scouting the West Alabama

After going just .500 in its non-conference slate, West Alabama caught fire in Gulf South Conference play as the Tigers tallied a 14-6 league record and finished second in the GSC standings.

UWA currently has five players averaging double figures in points, led by Desmond Raymond, who averages 17.3 points and has dished out 94 assists on the season.

Sandy Underwood adds 16.3 points a contest while Jared Woolfolk add 13.6. Jarell Byrd and Lleon Tillman each score more than 11 points a game, with Tillman adding 8.7 rebounds per contest as well.

The Tigers are a good shooting squad as the team connects on 47.6 percent of its shots from the floor, including 35.8 percent from beyond the three-point arc. UWA also takes care of the ball as it commits fewer than 11 turnovers a game, although the Tigers don't force many turnovers either as opponents average just 10.8 per contest.

West Alabama is also second in the conference, behind only the Blazers, in blocked shots with 92 on the season.

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