VSU welcomes their basketball teams home after a two-game road trip as the Blazers return to The Complex to face Wolves of conference rival West Georgia.
Valdosta State comes into Thursday’s game with an overall record of 14-7, with a record of 6-7 in conference play. After winning three of four games on their last home stand, the Blazers took to the road, splitting two games.
The Wolves come into Valdosta with a record of 7-13, including a record of 4-8 against conference opponents. UWG has lost their last seven games; ironically, one of their last two wins came at the hands of the Blazers on January 10 on the Wolves’ home floor in Carrollton, Ga.
UWG comes into Valdosta led by junior Sean Boston. In their last matchup, Boston’s double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds) was a key to securing a 72-64 victory against the Blazers.
Men’s Head Coach Mike Helfer believes that the Wolves’ record undermines the true talent of their opposition.
“It’s West Georgia versus Valdosta State,” Coach Helfer said. “It’s a rivalry game and very often in rivalry games records don’t matter. They’re a very talented team, top to bottom, and at the end of the day it’s all about the win.”
In their last matchup, the Blazers were excellent on the defensive end. Their defensive effort was led by senior Josh Sparks, who, aside from a career-high 18 rebounds, became VSU’s all-time leading shot blocker with eight blocks against the Wolves.
“It’s gotta be a team defensive effort,” Coach Helfer said. “We have to look at their entire team and make adjustments as necessary in order to secure the win.”
Their impressive showing on the defensive end was not enough to make up for the struggles offensively, as the Blazers suffered one of their worst shooting nights of the season.
The team connected on only 24 of 65 shots from the field (including four of 23 from long range) and shot a season-low 50 percent (12 of 24) from the free throw line.
The Blazers also gave up 20 turnovers, which led to 17 points from West Georgia.
“There’s just some nights that you don’t shoot it very well, and that was one of those nights for us,” Coach Helfer said. “I just think we have to take good shots.”
Thursday’s game will be the latest chapter in the storied rivalry between the schools. In 119 previous contests, VSU holds a 66-53 lead, but the Wolves come in having won the last three against the Blazers.
Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.