Blazer Defense Locks Down Late to Defeat Tigers

| January 30, 2017

LIVINGSTON, Ala. – Valdosta State overcame a slow offensive start to pick up a 73-61 Gulf South Conference road win over the West Alabama Tigers in Livingston, Ala. on Saturday for their ninth straight victory.

In the first half, the Tigers struck first with Gavin Robinson’s second three-pointer of the season. The Blazers struggled to find rhythm on offense and scored just two points on a pair of Beau Justice free throws for the first five minutes of the game.

The Blazer defense kept the drought from being a costly one, however, by allowing the Tigers just two free throws of their own during that same stretch. Facing a 5-2 deficit at the 15:00 mark in the first half, UWA continued to stifle the Blazer offense and managed to outscore VSU over the next seven minutes to establish a 19-13 lead.

With eight minutes to play in the opening period, Valdosta State flipped a switch offensively and put together a 19-9 run. Jeremiah Hill came to life during that stretch, scoring 10 of his 12 points to help ignite the Blazer offense and push VSU out to a 42-28 lead at the break.

“Stuff isn’t always going to go our way out there, and we just have to stay composed in those situations,” said Saadiq Muhammad in response to VSU’s slow start. “We have to just be patient, wear the other team down, and keep playing our game. If we do that, eventually, things will start going our way.”

In the second half, the Tigers pulled to within two points four different times and used a pair of Jahmal Lane free throws to trim the Blazers’ lead to 58-56 at the 8:45 mark. From that moment forward, however, Valdosta State’s defense went into total lockdown mode, and Coach Mike Helfer‘s squad allowed UWA just five additional points throughout the remainder of regulation. VSU scored 13 points during that same stretch to put the contest out of reach.

“I feel like as season has gone along, we’ve gotten better defensively,” added Muhammad. “We can score, but we’ve got to stop somebody if we are going to win games, especially games where we score under 80 points. In that final stretch tonight, we just buckled down and did what coach asked of us. After that, good things happened.”

Saadiq Muhammad was the driving force behind VSU’s offensive production on the night, as the senior forward shot 8-of-11 from the field and 2-of-4 from the free throw line for a team-high 18 points. In addition, Justin Simon helped lead the Blazers to 44 rebounds in the game with 11 of his own. Valdosta State’s rebound total exceeded UWA’s by 20, and Simon’s 10 points landed the senior another double-double.

The victory allowed VSU to retain their position at the top of the GSC standings with a 17-3 overall record and a 12-2 stint in league action. West Alabama fell to 9-10 overall and 4-9 in conference play.

Valdosta State returns to action on Thursday, February 2nd to face Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss. Tip time is slated for 8:30 p.m. EST.

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