The Valdosta State men’s basketball team held on to defeat the Florida Memorial Lions 73-69 Saturday night, improving to 2-0 on the season.
The Blazers led by as many 14 points and led 42-33 at halftime despite committing 11 turnovers. The Blazers struggled offensively in the second half, making just eight-of-24 attempts.
The Lions (0-3) used the Blazers’ misses and miscues to fuel their offense as they kept the game close throughout. An Andre Braziel three-pointer with 1:58 to go cut the Blazers lead to three at 70-67.
Senior forward David Murray had seven of his game-high 11 rebounds after halftime. None were bigger than his offensive rebound and tip-in with 1:26 remaining that pushed the Blazers lead to five.
Murray added a free throw with 14 seconds left to seal the win.
“It was an ugly basketball game,” Murray said. “We made this game tougher than it should’ve been. We tried to go for the home run plays a lot instead of being patient and being smart like we’re capable of.”
Blazers head coach Mike Helfer believes that while his team struggled, they found different ways to win.
“We gritted it out just enough to win the game,” Helfer said. “A lot of credit goes to Florida Memorial—they played a very smart, gritty game and made it a little bit ugly. Their kids were tough and we weren’t quite as tough tonight. But, I give our guys credit that we won the game.”
The Blazers out-rebounded the Lions 42-29, 17 of those coming on the offensive glass.
VSU also attempted 40 free throws in the game, but missed 15 of them.
“Obviously, getting to the free throw line 40 times was incredible,” Helfer said. “But we’ve got to capitalize on those trips. We had too many empty free throw line trips. We’ve just got to understand the value of the free throw line.”
The Blazers shot 48.1 percent in the first half while the Lions made 46.7 percent of their attempts.
The Blazers had four players in double-figures, led by guard Jalen Crawford’s 14 points. Blake Justice and Jarod Leonard each added 12 for the Blazers.
“We’ve just got to come out and play tomorrow and try to make small adjustments,” Helfer said. “You can’t make too many adjustments in 18 hours. We just need to play better—take better care of the ball, make our free throws and continue to win the rebounding battle. If we do that, we’ll be okay.”
FMU was led by forward Mark Walker, who scored 19. Guard Malcolm Gilbert added 17 for the Lions.
The Blazers host Carver Bible Sunday afternoon in the Comfort Suites Classic. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.
This article was written by Shane Thomas.