Earlier in the season, VSU head coach Kiley Hill said college basketball is a marathon, not a sprint.
With that said, Hill and his Lady Blazers have paced themselves to a 7-8 record to this point, which includes a .500 record in conference play.
Now with heart of conference play facing the Lady Blazers, Hill and his team know this is the time to catch fire if they want to make postseason play.
Last week the Lady Blazers lost a defensive battle to North Alabama 49-44, but they responded well by beating Alabama-Huntsville 62-56 last Saturday, which earned VSU their first Gulf South Conference victory of the season.
Coach Hill seems encouraged by the defensive effort his Blazers showed this past week, but he still wants more on the offensive end.
“It was a load off our back. We had prepped for a full week for both of those games and really came out flatter than a pancake against North Alabama,” Hill said. “We did some great things defensively, at times. When you hold someone to 49 points and you only score 44 on your home floor, that’s not a good thing. That’s something that we’ve struggled with all year – shooting the basketball.
“For the folks out there that read the paper, we do shoot the ball in practice,” Hill continued.
The remaining schedule is important, as the Lady Blazers have not yet gotten their first road win this season and there are still six road games yet to be played. However, Hill believes that his teams’ attitude has evolved and he is hopeful that they will build on the win over Huntsville.
“Our demeanor from Thursday to Saturday was night and day. We felt like we got a lead, almost gave it back, but when we needed to make shots, we finally made shots in crucial situations to extend the lead,” Hill said. “Then we scored some points in transition and we made some stops we had to. So there was a confidence builder there that we now know we can beat people.”
There are still an abundance of conference games yet to be played, 10 in all, including Saturday’s matchup with Lambuth University.
Each conference win gets the Lady Blazers closer to a bid to the conference tournament, which VSU would have to win, most likely, to win a berth to the NCAA tournament.
“That’s what you play for all year. From our standpoint, we have established it; we are competing on a regional and national level,” Hill said. “This year has become an anomaly for us.
If you look back at the history, we’ve been to the tournament five of the last six years, four years in a row and competed on that regional and national level.
“Our non-conference schedule was prepping us to do that and we’ve let too many of those slip away,” Hill said. “So, now our next window to get into the national tournament is to position ourselves in the conference tournament play, to get that automatic bid, because an at-large bid is going to be very minute for us now.”
With the stellar defensive play, it will be the offense that will need to step up to have a chance to compete in the GSC East.
“Our routine has been basically the same on the road as it as at home,” Hill said. “We’ve tried to adjust a couple things. Bottom line, we have gone stretches where we have gone without scoring for 6 to 8 minutes. We have to be able to come out with a fast start and a strong finish and somewhere in the middle, keep our head above water.”