No. 12 Blazers open 2019-20 season with GSC/SIAC Challenge

Shane Thomas | The Valdosta Daily TimesValdosta State guard Clay Guillozet (4) lays the ball in during a Gulf South Conference Tournament game against Delta State on March 9 in Birmingham, Ala.

VALDOSTA –– The No. 12-ranked Valdosta State men's basketball team is scheduled to open the 2019-20 season today and Saturday with the Gulf South Conference/Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Challenge at The Complex.

The Blazers will face Fort Valley State tonight at 7 p.m. and Albany State Saturday at 2 p.m. Last season, VSU downed both teams in the challenge in Albany, with a 78-72 win over Albany State and a 94-65 win over Fort Valley State. This marks the fourth-straight year VSU has opened with both Fort Valley State and Albany State.

Fans can access links to live stats and streaming for the games at vstateblazers.com on the men's basketball schedule page. Tickets are on sale now for all of VSU's men's basketball games at the VSU Athletic Ticket Office in The Complex or by calling 229-333-SEAT.

The Blazers enter the season picked third in the Gulf South Conference Preseason, which was release last month. VSU senior Clay Guillozet was named to the GSC Preseason All-league team. Guillozet, a native of Greenville, Ohio, averaged 13.1 points per game and finished second on the team in scoring, while leading the team in rebounding at 6.8 rebounds per game last season. For his career, Guillozet has played in 62 games with 54 starts and averages 12.8 points per game. He is averaging 6.4 rebounds per game and is 302 of 582 from the field for a .519 average. Guillozet has knocked down 58 shots from beyond the arc in 169 attempts, while recording 174 assists with 67 steals and 24 blocks.

VSU had an exhibition basketball game against Georgia last month and made a strong showing against the Division I Bulldogs. The Blazers raced out to a 19-5 lead as Georgia roared back for a 42-37 lead at intermission. Georgia increased its lead to double-digits in the second half, but the never-say-die Blazers kept fighting thanks in large part to 27 points, six rebounds and four assists from Guillozet, along with 18 points and six rebounds from senior Bryce Smith . Senior Darrell Jones added ten points and five rebounds, while sophomore newcomer Cam Hamilton added 11 points and four steals. Georgia won the game 93-81, but the 12-point difference showed the poise and talent of the Blazers heading into the season.

The Blazers are under the direction of 15th-year head coach Mike Helfer as he is 277-137 at VSU, while he is entering his 23rd year of coaching overall with a 463-220 record. Helfer welcomes back Guillozet, Smith and Jones from last season as they helped lead VSU to its third-straight NCAA postseason and third-straight GSC regular season title. Helfer added the services of Division II transfers senior Tyler Edwards of Fort Valley State and Hamilton, who came to VSU from UNC Pembroke. In addition to Edwards and Hamilton, Helfer also added junior college transfers Imoras Agee (Shelton State), Burke Putnam (Connors State) and Demarcus Addie of Georgia Highlands. Four freshmen also joined the team in Austin Kelley, Desmond McGill, Zach Sinclair and Jeremy Golson. Redshirt freshman Jakari Gallon also returns from last season after sitting out to redshirt.

Fort Valley State dropped a 126-57 exhibition basketball game at Division I powerhouse Duke. Despite the score, FVSU was led by D'Angelo Strickland, who netted a team-high 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting, three rebounds and three blocks. Freshman Tristan Davis added nine points and two steals.

The Wildcats went 7-22 last season under head coach Mark Sherrill, who was in his first season at the helm of the team in 2018-19. FVSU was 6-11 in SIAC play last season. This season, the Wildcats were picked sixth in the SIAC East Division, while they return seven of 16 players from last season. Shawn Foxbrennen, who led the team in scoring last season at 13.1 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per contest, was named to the Preseason All-SIAC team. He had five games of 20-plus points last season, including a season-best 32 points against Valdosta State. Also returning is K'Viontae Williams, who averaged 11.8 points and led the team with 80 assists last season.

VSU won both matchups last season with the 94-65 in Albany and then held off the pesky Wildcats for a 111-98 win in Valdosta. Foxbrennen had a season-high 32 points in the game in Titletown for FVSU, while former Blazer Beau Justice dropped a school-record 47 points leading four Blazers in double figures. Justice also set the GSC record for 3-pointers in a game with 12 as VSU went 19 of 45 from downtown in the game.

Albany State enters the season picked second in the SIAC East Division, but didn't have a player named to the preseason all-conference team. The Golden Rams will open the tournament facing West Florida, before battling VSU.

The Golden Rams are under the direction of second year head coach Patrick Gayle, as he guided the team to a 14-16 record last season and a 12-5 mark in the SIAC. VSU won both meetings with the Golden Rams last season, including the 78-72 win in the regional challenge and then VSU posted a 127-92 win in Valdosta on Nov. 15. Six different Blazers scored in double figures against the Golden Rams in the win in Valdosta, as the Blazers went 16 of 29 from beyond the arc in the game, while they shot 62.3 percent from the field on 43 of 69.

Four of the top five scorers return for the Golden Rams this season, including Jared Harrington who averaged 15.7 points per game last season on 151 of 321 from the field (.470). Also returning is Tyrell Williams who averaged 13.7 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game. He went 143 of 225 from the field last season (.636) to lead the team in field goal percentage.

Following the games this weekend, VSU continues at home Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 7:30 p.m. versus Brewton-Parker and then play at Albany State on Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. The Blazers then will open Gulf South Conference play on the road at Christian Brothers on Sat., Nov. 23 at 5 p.m. ET, in Memphis, Tenn.

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