VALDOSTA, GA – North Alabama used a 33-5 run over a span of more than 11 minutes of game clock to defeat Valdosta State 79-63 in Gulf South Conference men’s basketball action at The Complex Thursday evening.
North Alabama (15-8, 9-6) trailed 33-24 with just under three minutes to go in the first half and pulled to within 35-32 at the half. After Valdosta State (12-8, 6-8) scored on a Colin Cookjumper to open the second half, the Lions scored 25 of the next 26 points of the ball game. The Blazers missed all 14 of their field goals and scored only on Jalen Crawford free throw with 11:50 to go in the game as the run ended with UNA leading 57-38.
The North Alabama lead grew to as much as 63-42 before David Murray connected on three straight three-pointers. Jeremy McKay added a jumper and fed Blake Justice for two more to pull VSU to within 13 points and the Blazers eventually closed to within 73-61 with 3:14 to play, but got no closer.
The first half was closely contested throughout, although Valdosta State maintained the lead for the majority of the half. The Blazers scored eight of the first 10 points of the half, behind five points from Crawford and a three-pointer from Murray, before North Alabama fought back to gain its only lead of the half at 11-10 with 13:40 remaining before halftime.
VSU responded to the 9-2 UNA run by scoring seven out of the next eight points and, after the Lions evened the game at 17-17, scored four straight to grab a lead it would not relinquish the remainder of the half.
Following the 17-17 tie, the Blazers scored nine of the next 11 points, including five points from Colin Cook, and eventually built a 33-24 lead on a McKay jumper in the paint with 2:44 remaining in the half. However, two McKay free throws with 46 seconds to go in the frame would be the only points Valdosta State would score before the intermission as North Alabama closed to within 35-32 at the break.
Valdosta State’s ability to maintain its lead in the first half came via its work on the boards as VSU out-rebounded the Lions, who entered the game leading the GSC in rebounding at 42.2 per contest, 23-14. Murray tallied seven of those rebounds while Cook had another six.
Murray led VSU with 15 points as he connected on four three-pointers in the game while Crawford added 13, Cook 12 and McKay 10. The Blazers were out-rebounded 43-39 in the game, including 29-16 in the second half, and shot just 34.8 percent from the field, on an 11-of-36 showing in the second half.
Rashaun Claiborne and Nathan Spehr had 16 each to lead North Alabama while Marquel Darrington, Jere Vucica and Bruce Adams had 10 each. The Lions shot 24-of-55 from the field, or 43.6 percent, and made 25-of-31 free throw attempts.
Valdosta State returns to Saturday when it hosts Union in Gulf South Conference play at 8:00 p.m. in The Complex.