By Anthony Gagliano
There was no letdown in the VSU men's basketball team on Saturday, and that's exactly what coach Jim Yarbrough expects out of his team the rest of the way. The Blazers dealt West Florida a 64-57 setback in Pensacola, Fla., moving to 6-1 in the GSC East Division. The Blazers have a week off before finishing the season with seven rematches against their East brethren.
"I don't want to give it away," Yarbrough said. "If we go on the road or someone takes one away, that's fine. I don't want us coming in flat and unprepared.
"We lost one where we kind of gave it away. The emotion went to North Alabama, and they sapped us of our emotion. Since then, we've played very well."
Following the loss in Florence, Ala., to the Lions, the Blazers (16-3) have won four straight, holding off a game Argonauts team on Saturday. Three-point shooting became the difference, as the Blazers drained 9-of-18 behind the arc, even without leading shooter Mike Crain who missed his third straight game with a back injury.
West Florida, normally a perimeter oriented squad, made just 3-of-16.
"They sagged their man defense to Jon Rogers, so there were opportunities to swing the ball and kick it out," Yarbrough said. "Then against their zone, we moved it around and that was it. It put us in position for great looks."
Freshman Travis Nelson took full advantage of those looks, hitting 4-of-5 three-pointers for a team-high 16 points.
Senior Tony Baker hit a pair of threes and scored 11 points after halftime to tie Nelson with 16.
Even with the strong outside shooting, VSU failed to pull away. The lead changed hand 13 times, with the two teams tying five other occasions.
"It's nerve wracking," Yarbrough said. "You get caught up in every second on the floor and time stands still."
Things actually moved quite quickly as the teams completed the first half in 32 minutes. Yarbrough wasn't caught up in the moment as he called a timeout with VSU down six, triggering a run that put the Blazers up by as many as 10. However, the Argos (9-11, 1-6) climbed back in it.
Unlike the loss to UNA when the Blazers surrendered 29 free throws in the second half, it was VSU that clinched the game at the free-throw line.
Jerrod Jones made three critical free throws and Nelson hit his only two, enough to offset a 7-for-13 effort from the team in the second half. Meanwhile, West Florida attempted only five free throws, all in the second half, as the Blazers committed a meager 10 fouls.
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