The Valdosta State Blazers (9-3) look to get back on track against the struggling West Georgia Wolves (10-5) tonight in The Coliseum.
The Wolves have lost four in a row after a 10-1 start, while the Blazers have gone winless on their current four-game road trip.
In VSU’s loss to Union, the Blazers set season-lows in points (54), three-pointers made (4) and free throw attempts (7); the troubling signs showed during the 97-69 drubbing at North Alabama to start the road trip.
“If you’re not shooting it well, you’ve got to try to get better shots, get closer shots—paint touches and things like that,” Helfer said. “When you have one guy that makes a few, you have to find him a few more times because he’s going to carry the load on that night.”
Through 12 games, the Blazers have made 95 triples. 56 of those came in the first six games. Since then, the team has made just 39-of-142 beyond the arc. Coach Helfer remains optimistic that shots will start to fall.
“It’s been disappointing that we haven’t shot it better but we have very good shooters and I think sooner or later we’ll come out of it and get back to making perimeter shots.”
Despite having lost four consecutive games, the Wolves are still a formidable group, a team that spent weeks ranked nationally in the Top 25 earlier in the season.
“They’re good. They’ve got experienced guys,” Helfer said. “They’ve had some injuries that I think have hurt them recently. I don’t know where those kids stand, but they’re a very good team with some very good players.”
While the Blazers’ offense has sputtered, an encouraging sign is their recent safety with the basketball. In the last four games, the Blazers have averaged just 9.2 turnovers per game. Maintaining that level will be difficult against a West Georgia team that forces 18 turnovers per contest.
“You’ve got to take care of the ball,” Helfer said. “If you don’t take care of the ball, especially on the road, it’s just wasted possessions. The theory is you’ve got to be aggressive, but you also have to be smart and eliminate the mental turnovers.”
The Wolves are 5-1 inside The Coliseum this season, which also comes as no surprise that UWG leads the Gulf South Conference in attendance at 1,674 per game.
“It’s fun,” Helfer said. “I think our guys are going to enjoy the atmosphere. In Division II, we don’t have the mega, 18,000 people crowds that some of the bigger schools have. It’s just fun to play in a rivalry game. I enjoy it, it’s great to be a part of and I’m sure the players enjoy it too.”
“That happens in rivalry games—kids play well, their energy’s high, they’re excited and they do things that maybe they typically don’t do and that could go for either side. We’re just going to try to guard them all,” Helfer added.
The Blazers look to move up in the conference standings. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. from The Coliseum in Carrollton, Ga.
This article was written by Shane Thomas.