It just seemed nothing could go wrong for the Blazers against Delta State.
With the latest Hall of Fame class and stars such as Kenny Moore in attendance, the Blazers (14-8, 10-6 Gulf South Conference) put on a show. VSU led wire-to-wire as they blasted the Statesmen (6-13, 5-11 GSC) 93-44 to snap a two-game losing skid.
However, perhaps the biggest moment came when senior guard Jacolbey Owens became the latest member of the 1,000-point club. He is the second Blazer to pass that milestone this season, joining fellow senior guard Cam Hamilton.
“Jacolbey has just been fun to coach; he’s just such a nice kid,” Head Coach Mike Helfer said. “[He’s] super competitive and super talented. I was proud that he got it in front of our crowd tonight, which was really cool.”
Owens, who first played at Gulf Coast Community College before transferring to VSU, says he owes his success to his teammates.
“Coming here my first year, those guys kind of got me going, and having them here played a big role in my success,” Owens said.
The Blazers wasted little time getting the scoring started, opening the game with a 14-0 run. The run was sparked by graduate guard Maurice Gordon, who scored the first five points and recorded two steals.
The Statesmen battled back with a 15-9 run, to get within eight points. However, a 16-2 run by the Blazers to end the first half created an insurmountable 39-17 lead.
For as hot as the offense was—14-29 from the floor in the first half—the defense was just as efficient. The Blazers held the Statesmen to just 20% (6-30) shooting and 15% (3-20) from three in the first half.
Additionally, the Blazers held Maalik Cartwright, who came into the game as the GSC’s second leading scorer at 20.9 points per game, to just one point in the first half. Cartwright finished with seven points.
Helfer thought his team’s defensive effort was one of the best he’s seen in his 18 years at the helm.
“I just thought we really dialed it up defensively,” Helfer said. “To guard one of the best players in the league in Maalik Cartwright, to hold him to seven points, it’s truly amazing for us defensively and one of the best defensive efforts I think I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
The Blazers’ scorching-hot shooting continued well into the second half. VSU drove into the paint multiple times early in the second half as the Blazers stretched their lead out to a 60-23 advantage.
Even with the game well at hand, Owens remained determined to reach 1,000 career points. By the time Owens passed the mark with just under five minutes left in the game, the Blazers had a whopping 49-point lead.
On top of receiving a standing ovation from the crowd, Owens was congratulated by Hall of Fame inductee Butch Shelman following the game. Shelman played for the Blazers from 1988-1992, finishing his career with 1,579 points, which ranks eighth-most in program history.
“[Shelman] just told me to keep going and to basically keep my head up,” Owens said. “Actually, one of his teammates came over to me too, and he told me, ‘When things get hard, keep going. Never hold your head down.’ That means a lot to me to have those two guys coming over and talking to me.”
Even some of the bench players got in on the action, much to Helfer’s delight. Sophomore guard Chris Connor scored the Blazers’ final eight points to finish off the Statesmen.
“He can really shoot the basketball, and you saw tonight he got some looks and knocked them in,” Helfer said. “That last group that was in, everyone was passing the ball, sharing the ball, moving the ball. … That’s always been one way that I believe the game should be played—share the ball and everybody impacts the game in a positive way.”
The Blazers will be on the road for their next three contests. That road trip starts in Carrolton against West Georgia on Jan. 28 at 2 p.m.
Written by Austin Bruce, Sports Editor. Photo courtesy of VSU.