Valdosta, Ga. – Valdosta State (12-5) guard Patrick Diop’s team-high 20 points, four assists and four steals helped lift the Blazers to its seventh straight win over conference foe Delta State (7-10) Saturday afternoon in the P.E. Complex.
Though the Statesmen made a convincing 10-1 run in the final minutes led by DSU guard Cornell Knight, the Blazers were able to hold off for their second straight victory.
The Blazers struggled to get into a groove offensively in the first half especially in the opening minutes.
Halfway through the first half the Blazers were shooting a low 18.8% from the field (3-16).
DSU’s Terry Leake made jumper three minutes into the game gave the Statesmen its first lead of the game; it was two minutes left in the first half before VSU regained the lead again.
“I think we showed great heart defensively,” Head Coach Mike Helfner said. “We didn’t let the offensive end affect our defense that was the key. I give our guys a tremendous amount of credit because three or four weeks ago I’m not sure we would have been that tough defensively through such a bad stretch of offensive basketball.”
VSU finished with seven turnovers compared to DSU’s 17.
Although the Blazers battled shooting woes, DSU couldn’t separate thanks to relentless defense played by VSU.
With more than four minutes left in the first half, the Statesmen were leading 17-13 before Diop struck fire single-handedly scoring the final 10 points.
It just took the last two minutes or so for Diop to convert three lay-ups (two on fast breaks), a three-pointer, and one free throw.
The Blazers went into halftime up 23-17.
VSU maintained its lead for the rest of the game.
Leake Jr., who finished with a game-high 21 points, along with Jack Madgen (14 points total) kept the Statesman’s deficit from getting too large to overcome.
The Statesmen went down as much as 11(55-44) though following VSU guard Shaquille Harris’s three-pointer with two minutes to play before making one final turn around.
Murray broke an 8-0 run making one of his two free throws with 30 seconds left in regulation.
On the Statesmen ensuing possession, Sparks committed a senseless foul on Madgen as he shot a desperation three-pointer that even if made DSU would have still been trailing by one.
Madgen made two of his three free throws from the charity stripe to cap off the 10-1 run late.
This brought the score to 56-54 with 14 seconds left before the final buzzard.
Harris’s two pairs of made free throws afterwards iced the game putting it out of reach for DSU.
“We about to start over with Union Thursday so we just have to keep it rolling now on our home court,” senior forward James Anacreon said. “We feed off the energy, we just got to kept it rolling.”
VSU looks to improve to 4-6 in Gulf South Conference play Thursday against Union at the P.E. Complex.
Notes: Saturday’s games were nationally televised by CBS Sports Network.
Men’s game brought a season-best 2,814 attendees.
Reader Appreciation was acknowledged at halftime; a couple hundred local elementary school kids were recognized for their reading achievement.
Both coaching staff’s wore sneakers participating in the 10th Annual Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Weekend coordinated by the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC).