written by: Shane Thomas
Valdosta State (13-9) look to improve their standing in the Gulf South Conference when they welcome in-state rival West Georgia (16-9) Thursday night.
The Blazers defeated UWG 72-64 in Carrollton, Ga. on Jan. 16. Blazer guard Blake Justice led the team with 25 points and VSU held UWG’s leading scorer Deonta Stocks to only 10 points in the win.
Helfer sees the Wolves as a much different team heading into their second meeting.
“Five of their nine losses, they haven’t had all of their guys,” Helfer said. “Stocks didn’t play until the first semester was over and they didn’t have Thompson last time. He’s a great player—he had 19 points and 21 rebounds against Columbus State.”
An encouraging sign for the Blazers is the play of junior guard Larry Stone. The Indian Hills Junior College transfer had a season-high 18 points against UWF to follow up a 10-point, five-rebound effort against Union last Saturday.
“He’s coming in as our sixth man but there’s some value to that,” Helfer explained. “You know you’re bringing in a very good player who is good enough to start but Larry is such a great kid, he knows he’s going to play a lot of minutes.”
Stone started the first three games of the season before senior Jeremy McKay moved into the starting lineup.
“Being a sixth man has its advantages,” Stone said. “As a sixth man, you can see what’s going on and how you can impact the game. If I’m on the sidelines I can hear Coach yell out to guys what he wants. It wasn’t a big transition. Any way I can help the team win; that’s my job.”
UWG is 8-8 in the conference heading into Thursday, while the Blazers are 7-9.
Blazers hold 67-53 all-time record against the Wolves.
It will be “Red out the Complex Night” as VSU students are encouraged to wear red to the game.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.