Valdosta State women's basketball saw its seven-game winning streak go up in smoke at the hands of Montevallo over the weekend.
Playing an exhausting stretch of five games in nine days saw the Lady Blazers run out of gas on the second night of a back-to-back, fading in the fourth quarter in a 78-70 loss to the Lady Falcons. The loss was only VSU's second of the season, but it dropped them from No. 5 in the nation to No. 10 in the latest polls.
Let's run the floor.
There's no way around it –– the Blazers were a turnover machine against Montevallo.
In the weekend doubleheader, the VSU women committed –– and I hope you're sitting down for this –– 53 turnovers. Fifty-three.
In last Friday's matchup, the offense was nearly flawless minus the miscues. The Blazers shot a season-high 61.4% and shot a blistering 11-of-19 from 3-point range in an 85-71 victory.
When they weren't throwing it all over The Complex, the Blazers shared the ball beautifully to the tune of 21 assists on 27 made baskets and placing four players in double figures.
Whenever a team can manage to commit 32 turnovers and win by 14 points, something has to be working well. In the first game, the shooting efficiency combined with an aggressive, productive defense paid major dividends.
However, less than 20 hours later, fatigue caught up to the Blazers.
Despite leading by eight in the third quarter, VSU went cold in the fourth quarter as Montevallo outscored the Lady Blazers 29-17. The Falcons seemed like the fresher, more aggressive team as they shot almost 56% in the period compared to just 30% for the Blazers.
VSU finished with just 10 assists and turned the ball over 21 times in the loss.
Not only did the dead legs show in their ball security, it showed in the Blazers' typically-stellar defense.
The Falcons outscored the Blazers 50-42 in the paint and scored 22 points off the Blazers’ 21 turnovers.
Oftentimes, the Blazers were a step slow on defensive rotations to cut off driving lanes to the Falcons.
“A lot of it has to do with fatigue,” VSU head coach Deandra Schirmer said after Saturday's loss. “We’ve played five games in nine days and the sure-tell sign of fatigue is giving up 29 points in the fourth, also shooting 18% from 3. I really felt like, down the stretch, we were getting some wide open looks from 3 and weren’t able to connect. We were struggling a little bit with our legs and we should’ve done a better job (Friday) of getting some rotations so we could have fresher legs.”
After helping lead the Blazers to a 2-1 record last week, center Kwajelin Farrar was named Gulf South Conference Co-Player of the Week on Tuesday –– sharing the award with West Florida's Danielle Norquest.
In three games, the graduate transfer averaged 17.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game while shooting a crisp 75% from the floor.
Farrar notched two double-doubles in three games last week, bringing her season double-double count to nine.
Most impressively, hampered by foul trouble in Saturday's loss to Montevallo, Farrar finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds in only 17 minutes of action.
BACK TO NORMAL
After a stretch of quiet performances, senior point guard Kayla Bonilla looked much better in the Blazers' last three games.
Bonilla averaged 16.7 points on 53% shooting last week. While she committed more turnovers (18) than assists (11), Bonilla seemed to have a little more pep in her step and a better rhythm shooting the ball. She went 5-for-10 from 3-point range last week and is shooting 46.3% overall this season.
NO GOOD TIME TO LOSE
After Saturday's loss to the Falcons, I asked Schirmer if the loss serves as a wake-up –– a way to keep the team on edge and not let them get complacent with a long winning streak.
Going deeper, I asked if she would rather have this kind of loss at this point in the season rather than in the postseason. Schirmer candidly balked at the notion.
"If you know anything about me, I never like to lose," Schirmer said with an uncomfortable smile on her face. "I don't like to lose. Even if it's a learning lesson, we can learn a lesson in a one-point win. I just hate to lose. It's going to be a wake-up call. It has to be a wake-up call to our team that you've got to show up every single day and give your best effort. I thought our girls battled, but you could just see the fatigue throughout the entire game."
ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD
The Blazers make one more regular season road trip, starting tonight at Auburn Montgomery.
The Blazers swept the Warhawks at The Complex to open the new year, winning 72-55 on Jan. 2 followed by a 66-47 victory in a rare Sunday game Jan. 3.
Coming into tonight's game, the Warhawks are the only winless team in the GSC at 0-7.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, the Warhawks have had five games canceled –– most recently, a weekend series against Montevallo and a matchup at No. 18 Lee on Feb. 2.
For the season, the Warhawks are getting outscored by nearly 13 points per game and ranked dead-last in the GSC in scoring offense at 52.1 points per game.
Sharpshooter Jordan Brewster currently leads the conference in 3s per game with 3.8. Brewster hit 5-of-14 triples in the Jan. 2 meeting and matched a career-high with eight 3s made in a Jan. 26 loss to West Georgia.
Tip-off for tonight's game is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET. The games can be heard on WJEM 94.3 FM and will be broadcasted on foxsportsvaldosta.com.
Shane Thomas is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.