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End of the Road

SPRINGFIELD, MASS.—Just hours before the Valdosta State Blazers saw the best season in school history come to an end with an 80-64 loss to Indiana University (PA), two players were dismissed from the team.
The call to dismiss the two players, All-American Tyrone Curnell and Marvin “BJ” Dibble, came from head coach Mike Helfer and VSU athletic director Herb Reinhard after the two players violated university athletic policy.
“I am deeply disappointed that two of our student-athletes apparently made poor decisions, the consequences of which denied them the opportunity to compete in the NCAA finals,” VSU President Dr. Patrick J. Schloss said. “We are very proud of the season and the hard work of our players and dedication of our coaches.”
According to a statement by the university, the nature of the violations cannot be discussed due to a federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974; that prohibits the information to be discussed.
Despite the distraction of the dismissed players, the short handed Blazers seemed as though the absence of Curnell and Dibble was not going to bother them as VSU pulled way late in the first half with a 17-5 run as the Blazers built a double digit lead.
VSU saw opening half contributions from numerous players like Marquis Robinson and Billy McShepard, who let their post presence be felt in the early minutes, as VSU held a 38-26 halftime lead.
Despite the first half success, VSU (28-5) could not stop a strong second half comeback from the Crimson Hawks (32-2), as IUP managed one of their best runs of the season as they scored 21 consecutive points in which they connected on eight of 13 shots to take a commanding 57-48 lead with over 12 minutes to play. During the Crimson Hawks game changing run, the Blazers were outrebounded by the Crimson Hawks 11-0, five of which were offensive rebounds for IUP.
VSU finally broke the run of the Crimson Hawks with consecutive free-throws by Christian Hunter, however went nearly nine minutes without a field goal. Marquis Robinson ended the field goal drought for the Blazers with 7:56 remaining as VSU had fallen behind 61-48. VSU could not bring the game within single digits for the remainder of the game as IUP answered every Blazer run with a big play of their own.
IUP dominated the boards throughout the game as they out rebounded VSU 51-30 on the afternoon as they collected 22 offensive rebounds, the majority of which came in the second half.
Tristan Crawford filled the void of Curnell and Dibble as Crawford led VSU with 14 points and eight rebounds while Christian Hunter added 12 points off the bench, 10 of which came from the free-throw line.
Despite the distractions, the Blazers managed to put their best season together as they managed to break numerous attendance records and managed to knock off two No.1 ranked teams, Augusta State and Arkansas Tech. The Blazers also put together the longest winning streak in school history as they compiled 15 straight wins, which came to an end with a nine point loss to Arkansas Tech in the Gulf South Conference tournament.

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