Following a sound win over Christian Brothers, last weekend, the VSU men’s basketball team (11-5) welcomes Lee University (7-9) Saturday night.
In the Blazers last outing, they shot a season-high 53.3 percent against the defending Gulf South Conference champions and tied a season-high for three-pointers made with 13.
Lee has the distinction of being the first team to defeat the Blazers this season. The Flames dominated the rebounding battle 49-33 and held the Blazers to a season-low 31.3 percent from the floor on Dec. 19.
However, the Flames have lost seven of their last eight since that victory.
Blazers head coach Mike Helfer believes the Flames are a good team that has had tough luck.
“I think they have very good players,” Helfer said. “They’re very well-coached. Most of their games, they’ve been in them and have not been able to win them in this recent stretch.”
The Blazers will have to contain the Flames’ high-scoring guard Cory Billingsley; he enters Saturday averaging 19.1 points per game and dropped 20 in the last meeting.
“I expect a very difficult team to guard because they have a lot of different weapons.” Helfer added. “We’ll have to play well in order to try to win the game.”
Gulf South Conference Player of the Week recipient David Murray poured in a career-high 32 points on 12-of-14 shooting in his last outing. He has been on a scoring frenzy the last four games.
In that span, the Birmingham, Ala. native has made 27 of his last 36 field goals, including 15-20 from beyond the arc.
“There’s a confidence with him,” Helfer said. “I think he’s playing much more confidently and you can see that when he rises up for his shots. He’s also taking very good shots. The combination of confidence and good shot selection has increased his percentages drastically.”
Sophomore guard Blake Justice has also found his range in the last four games. Justice has made 13 of his last 25 three-point attempts.
“All of us, not only David and Blake, but as a team, we’re just taking better shots,” Helfer said. “When you take better shots—more open and in rhythm—you’re going to have shooters make a higher percentage. The key for us is to take good shots and continue to do that.”
While the offense has caught fire, the Blazers will need to shore things up defensively and on the boards consistently to get more wins.
“I don’t think we’ve been terrible defensively,” Helfer said. “We’ve had a little bit of a drop in our rebounding ability, which has been created going with a smaller lineup. We’ve got to learn to rebound big when we go small. It doesn’t matter what you do on the offensive end, you’ve got to be able to guard people and rebound if you’re going to win in the Gulf South so we need to figure that out quickly.”
Tip-off for Saturday’s game versus Lee is scheduled for 8 p.m. at the VSU P.E. Complex.
This article was written by Shane Thomas.