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Men’s and women’s basketball struggle to produce in home openers Tuesday

After losing to Saint Leo in last year’s season opener, the Valdosta State men’s team seemed well prepared in their home opening rematch with the Lions as they jumped to an early 11-3 lead to start the game.

Four timely three point baskets from Taylor Bassett in the first half gave Saint Leo a much needed spark off the bench.

The two teams headed into the half tied at 28. In the second period one team showed up, and it wasn’t the Blazers.

The two teams traded several baskets and stayed in close distance of each other before Saint Leo would go on a 20-0 run that would extend the lead to 57-37 with 8:22 to play in the game.

Saint Leo, who shot 39.3 percent from the field in the first half, would shoot an amazing 61.3 percent in the second half. Junior Shaun Adams scored a game-high 24 while Bassett finished with 18; including five field goals from beyond the arc.

Protecting the ball also played a major role in the Lion’s run as the Lions only turned the ball six times in the game, while forcing the Blazers into 17 turnovers.

Suffocating defense by the Lions and missed field goals by the Blazers caused VSU to shoot just 37.5 percent in the game, including 29.6 percent in the second half.

The Blazers, who continued to give a strong and energetic effort, remained positive and closed the gap to 15 points, but Saint Leo responded by scoring six consecutive points to push the lead to 21, the Lion’s largest lead of the game.

Saint Leo would go on and defeat the Blazers 69-51. Michael Panaggio and Tristan Steele both scored 12 points to lead the Blazers in scoring. The loss sends the Blazers under .500, with a record of 1-2.

VSU will look to get back to even on the year when they head back out on the road to face the Albany State Rams on Nov. 22 at 7 p.m.

Coming off two dominating performances against Nova Southeastern and Barry University over the weekend, the Lady Blazers returned for their home opener in the Complex against Georgia Southwestern.

A strong shooting performance in the first half and key forced turnovers in the second half by GSW proved to be too much for the Blazers as they lost their first of the season 67-60.

After two emotional games over the weekend, Head Coach Kiley Hill felt that the squad was both physically and mentally drained in the first half of Tuesday’s game.

“We played very fatigued; mentally we were never there in the first half,” said Hill. “We dug ourselves such a big hole and it was hard to climb out.”

The Lady Blazers only shot 34 percent from the field in the first half, while the Hurricanes shot 50 percent from the field, which contributed to the huge run.

The Lady Blazers left the court at halftime only down by 12, despite the poor first half shooting performance and costly turnovers.

Senior forward Brittany Ferguson came out strong in the second half. Her and the rest of the Lady Blazers buckled down on defense and went on a short run that would cut the double digit halftime lead to single digits.

“Ferguson’s play over the entire basketball game was pretty consistent,” said Hill. “She did a great job of at least attacking the basket, doing some great things for us consistently.”

Ferguson scored a game high 23 points and was named GSC player of the week for her performance in the Lady Blazer’s first three games.

Despite the resilient effort from the Lady Blazers in the second half, they were unable to take the lead as the Hurricanes were able to respond to every Blazer run to maintain the lead.

Poor shooting haunted the Lady Blazer’s throughout the game, especially from 3-point range. VSU finished the game shooting just 36 percent from the field and just 2 of 19 from behind the arc.

Behind Fergson’s 23, Maylisa Johnson added 12 points and Williams scored 12 points off the bench.

Senior guard Sczeny Hartry provided a defensive spark with three steals and a career high eight rebounds.

As Hill looks ahead to the next game, he acknowledges that there is only one approach to the next game.

“Right now our approach is very simple,” Hill said. “We are going to worry only about us getting better.”

The Lady Blazers will look to return to their winning ways as they head on the road to face the Saint Leo Lions on Saturday at 2 p.m.

The Lady Blazers will return home Tuesday against Albany State at 7 p.m.

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