The Valdosta State men’s basketball team overcame a sluggish first half and outscored Trinity Baptist 60-22 in the second half en route to a 97-58 win in its season opener.
The Blazers (1-0) shot 59 percent in the second half and 7-of-11 three-pointers to blow the game open behind the hot shooting of Preseason All-GSC forward David Murray.
Murray scored 11 consecutive points in less than two minutes to extend the VSU lead to 69-49 with 9:59 remaining in the game.
“Three-point shooting and shooting in general is kind of contagious,” Helfer said. “I could feel the momentum going through our team. It’s fun to coach in front of a crowd like this—it was just awesome.”
The Blazers missed 14 of their first 17 field goals and committed seven first-half turnovers, but used a flurry of three-pointers by sophomore guard Blake Justice to take a 37-36 lead into the locker room at the half.
The Akron transfer made 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the first half. Junior guard Jalen Crawford added 10 in the opening frame.
“We continued to go to Blake,” Blazers guard Jeremy McKay said. “He really sparked our team by hitting those threes in the first half.”
The Blazers raised their energy level and defensive intensity in the second half, holding Trinity Baptist to just 7-of-29 from the field and forcing 10 Eagles’ turnovers.
Coach Helfer believes his team felt opening night jitters in front of their home crowd and needed to adjust quickly.
“I thought our guys were pressing,” Helfer said. “Our shots were short—we were short-arming shots around the goal. But, give our guys credit. We stuck with it, stuck with it, made the right adjustments at halftime and then [in the second half] we really got it going.”
Trinity Baptist shot 43.3 percent in the first half.
The Blazers had six players score in double figures, led by Justice’s 19 points. Jalen Crawford and David Murray added 17 points apiece, guard Larry Stone added 13 and forward Jarod Leonard posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in the contest.
Trinity Baptist was led by Holmes, who finished with 12 points and center Taliik Ross finished with 10 points as the Eagles fell to 0-3 on the season.
The Blazers will host back-to-back games over the weekend as Florida Memorial and Carver Bible visit The P.E. Complex for the Comfort Suites Classic. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Saturday.
This article was written by Shane Thomas.