By Anthony Gagliano
The last time the Valdosta State women's basketball team met Florida Gulf Coast, Blazer coach Kiley Hill said his team got exposed and embarrassed. The Eagles hit 6-of-8 three-pointers in the first half to build a double-digit lead en route to handing VSU its second loss of the season, 63-51.
That was on VSU's own floor Dec. 4 in the Guest House Inn-vitational. This time around, Gulf Coast is putting on the tournament and the Blazers want revenge today in Fort Myers, Fla., after warming up with a 69-31 win against Georgian Court on Tuesday during the first day of the Florida Gulf Coast Christmas Classic.
"It was a teaching tool," said Hill of first meeting. "We've done it in practice and now we have to make it happen in the game."
Hill identified three weaknesses that Gulf Coast exploited last time around. In addition to torrid three-point shooting, the Eagles (8-3) owned the rebounding edge and availed themselves of unforced turnovers by the Blazers. The corrections have been made and Hill hopes they'll show at 1 p.m. today at Alico Arena.
"What we've done from an offensive standpoint is we have done more work on our execution and focused on our offensive movement to limit the unforced mistakes," Hill said. "For rebounding, we've been sending more people to the boards to give us another opportunity on the offensive end. To take away the three-pointers, we've been working on breaking down on defense."
All of those elements were on display Tuesday. Georgian Court, an all female school from Lakewood, N.J., scored just 14 points in the first half, at which point it trailed by 23.
The Lions (1-7) committed 36 turnovers for the game and couldn't contain VSU, which shot 60 percent from the field in the first half.
Freshman Khaleh Thomas supplied the physical play and rebounding Hill sought, muscling her way to eight rebounds and 14 points in 17 minutes.
"Khaleh Thomas is stepping it up and feeling more comfortable," Hill said. "She's finding ways to score and attacking the basket. And defensively, she's come along greatly."
Team captain Traci Newton scored 11 points in 21 minutes as the Blazers continued to work their bench in preparation for the upcoming conference schedule.
Freshman Janelle Collazo ran some possessions at the point, and reserve forward Rose Abreu shot 4-of-5 from the floor.