The Blazers rode the hot hand of their senior, David Murray, as Valdosta State rolled over Christian Brothers 84-65 Saturday night in the P.E. Complex.
Playing with a heavy heart, Murray shot a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in the second half en route to a career-high 32 points. The Birmingham, Alabama native played despite news of the death of his aunt on Friday.
“I really didn’t know how I was going to play tonight until I talked to my mom,” Murray said. “She just told me to go out and play ball because that’s what my aunt would want me to do.”
“I was just playing ball,” Murray added. “I felt like I owed Christian Brothers from last year because I got hurt.”
Murray shot 12-of 14 from the field, made 6-of-8 from three-point range and pulled down 10 rebounds in 35 minutes.
“He’s very capable of that,” Blazers head coach Mike Helfer said. “I’m proud he did that, but I’m more proud of the 10 rebounds he got. He got in there and really did a good job on the defensive end, but he made a lot of shots.”
The Blazers outrebounded the Bucs 36-33 and dished 14 assists, including a season-high eight by junior Jalen Crawford; improving to 9-0 when they record 10 assists or more.
“I thought we did a great job of passing it,” Helfer said. “Your assists go up when guys make shots. I just thought we were very unselfish tonight, which was big.”
The Pirates offense sputtered throughout as they were held without a three-pointer in the first half and finished just 5-of-22 from beyond the arc. The Blazers’ defense bottled up the Bucs, holding them to 34.4 percent shooting.
In the second half, the Bucs came alive behind the play of upperclassmen Trey Casey, Cory McArthy and Sidy Sall. The trio accounted for 27 of the team’s 40 second-half points.
The Blazers led by 25 with 14:14 remaining and despite the cushion, Helfer urged his team to keep the pressure on.
“I told them in the huddle to stick to our offense—don’t come down and take quick shots and feed [the Bucs] offense,” Helfer said. “We wanted to make them work for their shots and wrap up the rebounds—that was our philosophy in the second half.”
The Blazers led 40-25 at halftime as they shot 51.6 percent from the floor driven by the play of Murray and junior Larry Stone as the duo combined for 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
CBU was led by sophomore Drew Hildreth’s 10 points in the first half.
The Bucs fall to 9-7 on the year, while the Blazers improved to 11-5 overall and 5-5 in Gulf South Conference play. VSU will be back on the practice floor tomorrow in preparation for their road matchup Tuesday against West Florida (3-13).
“Any time you go on the road, especially in the second half of the season, it’s gonna be a tough, grind-it-out game,” Helfer added. “Each team knows each other. It’s going to be a grind and we’re going to have to be ready.”
This article was written by Shane Thomas.