The Blazers are heading to the beach, but this isn’t a vacation trip, it’s strictly a business trip.
The Valdosta State’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will travel to Pensacola, Fl. this Saturday to take on Gulf South Conference rival West Florida.
The men’s team is coming off a thrilling 91-88 overtime victory at West Alabama, that snapped their three game losing-streak and gave the blazers their first victory in 2013.
“Winning on the road in the GSC is difficult,” Mike Helfner, head coach, said. “We just got to realize conference games are going to come down to the last minute or two.”
VSU improved their record to 10-4 on the year.
The Blazers had four players score in double digits, and were lead by James Anacreon’s double-double, with 26 points and 14 rebounds.
Seniors James Anacreon and Josh Sparks continue to give the Blazers strong leadership and production
Anacreon leads the team in scoring with 16.9 points per game along with 9.0 rebounds per game.
Sparks, who recently became VSU’s all-time leader in blocked shots, is averaging 12.6 points per game and a team best 9.8 rebounds per game.
The front-court duo of Sparks and Anacreon has propelled VSU to average 83.4 points a game, which leads the Gulf South Conference.
Coach Helfner said of the two, “They mesh very well. It seems like they have the knack to find each other. It’s fun to watch.”
West Florida, 7-7 on the year, is riding a three game losing-streak.
Both teams enter the game with a 2-4 conference record, and a win could vault either team into the top half of the conference standings.
VSU will focus defensively on the Argonauts leading scorer Ellis Young, who is the conference’s third leading scorer with 18.2 points per game.
Valdosta State’s women’s teams finds themselves in the midsts of a two game loosing-streak, and will look to get back on the winning track against a struggling 3-11 West Florida, who come in with a four game loosing-streak of their own.
Right now, for the Lady Blazers, this seasons been a work in progress. They’ve dealt with numerous injuries.
“We’ve battled with so much adversity so far,” said Head Coach Kiley Hill, “We’ve just started getting people back. We’re still trying to figure out who needs to go where, who needs to do what. Right now it’s a work in progress.”
Both teams are struggling in conference play with loosing records and are in the bottom three of the conference standings. VSU is 2-4 in conference while North Florida is winless at 0-6.
In VSU’s previous two games, the Lady Blazers have failed to score over fifty points and have been haunted by poor second half performances.
In fact, the Lady Blazers have been outscore a combined 75-38 in their previous two second halves.
Coach Hill attributed their recent struggles to a combination of things, “fatigue, we’ve been playing so many kids so many minutes. The rigors of travel. All those things add up.”
But Coach Hill was quick to shoulder some of the blame, “I’ve done a poor job with our substitution patterns at times, something I have to do better from a coaching perspective.”
VSU will look toward Senior Brittney Nelson to lead the team to a much needed victory.
Nelson is having a strong season leading the team in scoring with 14.2 points a game and in rebounding with 11.2 rebounds a game.
Also, sophomore Kourtnee Williams has been superb this year, averaging 13.6 points per game, and was named Gulf South Conference player of the week last week.
“They’ve been tremendous. They’ve been consistently playing well for us.” said Coach Hill of both Nelson and Williams.
“Nelson has been averaging a ton of double-doubles for us. Kourtnee has been very strong on the offensive end. She does a lot for us, and a lot of times she guarding the best player.”
Nelson and Williams have been a barometer of success for the Lady Blazers this season.
“I think that’s a great way to look at it. There’s a lot expected, a lot demanded, and they’re doing their best to live up to expectations.”
Both the men’s and women’s team will look to end their three-game road stretch on a positive note with a crucial conference victory.
The men’s team will try to build on recent success while the women’s team looks to bounce back from back-to-back losses.
The women’s game will kick-off the event at 3 PM, followed by the men’s game scheduled to tip-off at 5 PM.