No. 8 Lady Blazers head to No. 16 Lee for pair of key GSC contests

Shane Thomas | The Valdosta Daily TimesValdosta State center Kwajelin Farrar (10) shoots a free throw during the fourth quarter against Lee Dec. 19, 2020 at The Complex. Farrar posted a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds and blocked a season-high four blocks in the Lady Blazers' 80-76 overtime win over the Flames.

VALDOSTA –– With a perfect and Gulf South Conference-best 7-0 record, the No. 8 Valdosta State women's basketball team continues on the road this week, as it travels to No. 16 Lee for a pair of key GSC games. Friday's game is set for a 6 p.m. tip, while Saturday's contest is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start.

VSU is coming off a sweep at Shorter last weekend as the Lady Blazers ran their winning streak to seven games for the best start since the team won 10 games to open the 2003-04 season. Fans can access links to live stats, audio/video streaming, ticket information and more at of the upcoming games this weekend. The games also will be broadcast on WJEM 94.3 FM and online at Spencer Van Horn will have the call of both contests.

This will be the final regular season games against Lee, as VSU won an overtime thriller in Valdosta, 80-76 on Dec. 19. In that game, the Flames, who were picked to win the GSC East Division, entered No. 21 nationally. The upset-minded Lady Blazers, who were picked fourth in the preseason GSC poll, erased a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to begin the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run.  VSU took the lead midway through the frame with a layup from freshman Alexandria Smith. Two free throws from senior Kayla Bonilla gave VSU at 70-67 lead with 57 seconds left, but a huge trey from Hannah Garrett tied the game at 70 seconds later.  Both teams had chances again at a go ahead bucket in the closing seconds. VSU never trailed in overtime and sophomore Jirah Ards put VSU up for good with a jumper with 3:04 left at 74-72 as VSU went on for the 80-76 victory.

Bonilla tied her career-high with 30 points in the game on 10 of 16 from the field, 4 of 5 from range and 6 of 8 from the line. Graduate transfer Kwajelin Farrar finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds on 9 of 11 from the field and 2 of 4 from the line. She had five offensive rebounds and recorded a season-high four blocks. The Flames were led by Haley Schubert who had a team-high 23 points on 8 of 18 from the field, one triple and 6 of 6 from the line leading four players in double figures. Garrett finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

VSU leads the series 9-7 since Dec. 19, 2013 with Lee. The Lady Blazers have won the past two meetings and seven of last ten. Lee holds a 4-2 record in the series in Cleveland, Tenn., and has won the last two meetings there. VSU's last road win came in an 80-78 victory on Jan. 7, 2017.

Last week, VSU outscored Shorter 147-105, including posting a 37-8 first half score in the 68-48 win on Saturday. Farrar paced the team averaging 14.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game for the series, while Smith averaged 12.0 points and 5.5 rebounds, going 10 of 10 from the line. Bonilla averaged 10.5 points and recorded nine steals in the two games. Farrar was named GSC Co-East Division Player of the Week, sharing the honor with Lee's Maddie Long. It was Farrar's second weekly honor of the season and the fourth-straight week VSU has had the East Division Player of the Week.

VSU shot .446 from the field on 54 of 121, while holding the Hawks to a .330 clip on 37 of 112. VSU outrebounded the Hawks 68-54 and forced 46 turnovers to just 29 miscues by the Lady Blazers.  A total of 24 of the 29 miscues forced by VSU came via steals.

The Lady Blazers are eighth nationally in the D2SIDA Top 25 for their highest ranking in the poll in program history. In addition, VSU is the top team in the D2SIDA South Region Poll this week as Lee sits second in the region ranking. This is the first region ranking the Lady Blazers have been ranked and as the only undefeated team, who currently is playing, in the region and conference. Mississippi College is third in the ranking, followed by West Alabama and a tie for fifth between Montevallo and Union. Alabama Huntsville is among others receiving votes in the region rankings.

Following the loss to VSU, Lee had its first two games of 2021 postponed at Montevallo and then won a pair of home games against West Georgia this past weekend. Lee was victorious on Friday, 74-57, and won 68-62 on Saturday. Lee is 3-0 this season at home and has won 29 straight at home since a 76-70 loss to West Florida on Dec. 17, 2018. The 29-game winning streak at home is the fourth-longest in NCAA Division II.

The Flames are 4-1 on the year and are led by Schubert who is averaging 15.8 points per game. She is 30 of 66 from the field, while going a team-best 16 of 21 from the line. Schubert is second on the team averaging 5.4 rebounds per game, while dishing out a team-high 18 assists and second on the team in steals with ten. Long is second on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game and averages 4.6 rebounds per game. Long is 22 of 40 from the field for a team-best .550 clip and 11 of 20 from beyond the arc also a .550 clip for tops on the team. Julia Duncan leads the team in steals (13) and is third in scoring at 11.4 points per game, while Hannah Garrett is fourth in scoring at 10.4 points per game. Halle Hughes leads the team at 5.8 rebounds per game.

As a team, the Flames are shooting .441 percent from the field on 138 of 313, while the team is holding the opposition to a .337 clip on 105 of 312. Lee is 43 of 121 from beyond the arc for a .355 clip, leading the GSC and 37th nationally, while it is 51 of 73 from the line (.699). The Flames are averaging 40.0 rebounds per game and allowing 38.6, while scoring 74.0 points per game for second in the GSC and allowing 62.0 per contest.

Lee is averaging 29.4 defensive rebounds per game for second in the GSC and 34th nationally, while the team is third in the GSC and 14th nationally in field goal percentage defense, holding teams to a .337 clip.  Individually, Long is second in the GSC and 15th nationally in 3-point field goal percentage at a .550 clip.

For the season, the Lady Blazers are averaging 72.7 points per game for third in the GSC, while allowing 59.0 points per game for 29th nationally and third in the league. VSU is shooting at a 42.8 clip for fifth in the league, while holding teams to a 35.8 average for fourth in the GSC and 31st nationally. From beyond the arc, VSU is at a 29.7 average for fifth in the conference, while holding teams to a 31.0 average.  The team has drained 47 triples for the season for second in the league and 31st nationally.  The Lady Blazers are third in the league in made free throws (98) for 32nd nationally, while they are 27th nationally and second in the league in free throws attempted (142). As a team, the Lady Blazers are averaging 41.0 rebounds per game for fourth in the league, while owning an 8.3 rebounding average for second in the league and 19th nationally. VSU is fourth in the league in defensive rebounding (28.6) and seventh in offensive rebounds per game at 12.4.

Individually, Bonilla leads the team averaging 17.3 points per game for fifth in the GSC. She is 41 of 69 from the field for a 59.4 average for second in the conference and 27th nationally. Bonilla leads the GSC in free throws made with 27, while she is second in the league in free throw attempts (35) for 40th nationally. Bonilla is second in the league in assists (24), fifth in assists per game (3.4) and fifth in assist/turnover ratio. She averages 3.0 steals per game for 19th nationally and third in the league, while she leads the team from range at 12 of 23 for a 52.2 clip. Her 12 made triples are good for fourth in the league.

Second in scoring is Farrar at 13.9 points per game.  She is 43 of 67 for a team-best 64.2 average per game, as her 43 made field goals are good for second in the GSC and 38th nationally, while her 64.2 average is tops in the GSC and 13th nationally. Farrar leads the team in rebounding at 9.1 per game. She is averaging 4.9 defensive rebounds per game for second on the team and leads the team in offensive rebounds at 4.3 per game for third in the league and 18th nationally.  Farrar leads the team with four double-doubles for sixth nationally and second in the league.  Smith is third in scoring at 10.3 points per game as she is 23 of 53 from the floor for a 43.4 average. She is 5 of 17 from range and a team-best 21 of 24 from the line (87.5) for third in the GSC in free throw percentage. Smith is second on the team in rebounding at 6.3 per game, while she has 13 assists for third on the team and seven steals, also good for third on the team. Senior Delaney Bernard is second on the team with nine made field goals from beyond the arc for the season as she is averaging 6.3 points per game for fifth on the team.

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