VALDOSTA –– Gunning for their fifth straight victory, the Valdosta State Blazers (12-3, 6-2 Gulf South Conference) were in no mood for a plodding pace.
Facing Delta State’s deliberate, Princeton-style offense, the Blazers disrupted the flow and looked to push the pace at every opportunity –– blowing out the Statesmen 103-80 on Saturday.
The Blazers dominated in the paint, 58-46 and shot just under 52.5 percent from the floor while putting in a sizzling 12-of-25 from 3-point range. VSU ended up winning the race in transition, 12-2 –– taking advantage of the winded Statesmen.
Though the Statesmen shot 48.5 percent, they attempted 12 fewer shots and missed 25 of their 31 3-point attempts on the night.
“I thought we guarded very well,” Blazers coach Mike Helfer said. “I thought Delta made some incredibly difficult shots in the first 12 minutes of the game and I think they were ahead of us by (five). Our guys just stuck to the game plan and over 40 minutes, we were able to gain control of the game by what we were doing against the Princeton.”
Senior Clay Guillozet led six Blazers in double figures with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting along with seven rebounds. Big man Bryce Smith finished with 19 points and eight rebounds while starting point guard Burke Putnam put in an all-around effort with 16 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Sophomores Imoras Agee and Cam Hamilton each scored 10 and provided several highlight plays in the game –– Agee with a monster tomahawk dunk in transition and Hamilton with a fancy, behind the back spin move for an assist on the baseline.
Perhaps the Blazer that made the biggest impact was returning shooting guard DeMarcus Addie. Playing in only his second game since Nov. 14, Addie dropped in a season-high 17 points in 17 minutes –– knocking down 6-of-10 shots overall and 4-of-6 from 3-point range.
Addie’s floor-spacing played an integral role in the Blazers’ 55-point second half.
“DeMarcus can really score the basketball, he can really shoot it,” Helfer said of Addie. “He’s a great lift for us right now because we’ve got him back and he’s playing. He’s a great kid who buys into everything we do. A team guy that plays super hard. We’re happy to have him back in the lineup and it was good to see him play well today.”
The Statesmen fell to 7-8 on the season under new head coach Mike Nienaber, who left his longtime post at Christian Brothers to lead the Statesmen.
Point guard Anderson McCoy led the team with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists –– hitting several difficult shots and displaying excellent ball-handling skills over his 37 minutes of playing time.
McCoy broke down the Blazer defense on many occasions to score or to create shots for his teammates, which impressed Helfer from the sidelines.
“He’s a very good player,” Helfer said of McCoy. “We knew he was good –– I wasn’t sure how good –– he’s really good, but he’s not a Princeton type of guy in terms of having to dribble it five, six, seven times to get to the rim. That’s hard when you’re running the Princeton, when you don’t have that rhythmic flow of backdoors and back cuts. I thought we did as good of a job as we could on him, but he’s a very good player.”
In addition to McCoy’s big night, Delta State’s leading scorer Airen Brooks had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, but finished 0-for-8 from beyond the arc. Maalik Cartwright had 15 points and six rebounds while Keyshaun Street added 14 points in the loss.
The Blazers, who led 48-36 at halftime, tallied 24 assists on 42 made field goals while committing only 10 turnovers in the victory. The Blazers’ defense generated 18 points off 16 Delta State turnovers.
Riding the wave of a five-game winning streak, the Blazers go on the road next week to Carrollton to face rival West Georgia (4-10, 2-4 GSC). The Blazers have not lost a game since Dec. 17, when they were routed 88-74 against Lee.
Delta State 66
VSU women 59
The Valdosta State women (12-4, 4-4 GSC) lost their second straight game Saturday, losing 66-59 to No. 16 Delta State (13-1, 6-1 GSC) in the opener.
Nia Johnson led the Statesmen with 23 points, shooting 7-of-15 from the floor and 9-of-11 from the free throw line. Zyaire Ewing had 20 points and nine rebounds while leading scorer Quantesha Patterson had a quiet night with 10 points and only six rebounds.
The Statesmen outscored the Blazers 20-16 in the fourth quarter, doing the bulk of their damage inside as Ewing sank a dagger in VSU’s comeback hopes with a layup with 1:06 to play.
“Down the stretch, we didn’t make some key plays and they did,” VSU head coach Deandra Schirmer said. “Sometimes, when you face a really good team, that’s what they do –– players make plays. They’re a tough team –– they’re the No. 16 team in the nation, there’s a reason for that. You can’t let those teams get back in the game and that’s what I felt like we did in the third.”
The Blazers led 32-28 at halftime and led by as many as seven points in the first half, but allowed the Statesmen to outscore them 38-27 in the second half.
Rebounding was a major theme entering the ballgame as Patterson and Ewing came into the game averaging over 25 rebounds combined. In fact, Patterson –– the nation’s leading rebounder –– and Ewing, the nation’s ninth-leading rebounder, were held to 15 as a tandem on Saturday.
The Statesmen only edged the Blazers 39-33 on the glass, but hurt the Blazers with 14 offensive rebounds and 12 second chance points.
While the Blazers shot the 3-point shot effectively (10-of-23), they committed 21 turnovers –– spoiling otherwise pristine ball movement as they finished with 18 assists on 22 made baskets.
Kayla Bonilla played all 40 minutes and led the Blazers with 16 points and six rebounds, but committed a team-high seven turnovers in the game. Cheray Saunders had 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Delaney Bernard also had 14 for the Blazers, knocking down 4-of-7 triples along with four rebounds and two assists in the loss.
With the win, the Statesmen have won nine straight games.
Valdosta State: Visits rival West Georgia on Jan. 16.
Delta State: Hosts Union on Jan. 16.