by Shane Thomas
VSU men’s basketball team (9-14, 4-13 Gulf South Conference) hits the road for its final regular season trip against Union College (16-7, 10-7 Gulf South Conference) tonight in Jackson, Tennessee.
The Blazers are in the midst of a dismal stretch, having lost 11 of their last 14 games and five straight following an 80-69 loss to Delta State over the weekend.
With five games remaining, the Blazers currently sit ninth in the GSC and run the risk of missing the conference tournament.
Despite his team’s struggles, Blazers head coach Mike Helfer insists his group has not waved the white flag just yet.
“Right now, we’re still alive and we’ve got to know that and play games one at a time,” Helfer said. “It’s unfamiliar territory for us but we’re here. We’ve got to take it one step at a time and that starts with Union.”
In their Jan. 5 meeting, both teams combined to shoot 21-60 in the first half. Union made six of its nine three-pointers in the second half and defeated the Blazers 84-78. The Blazers shot 4-17 from beyond the arc.
Helfer believes a better overall start should serve his group well on the road.
“(Union) can start lightning fast because they shoot it so well,” Helfer said. “We’ve just got to make sure we get off to a good, solid start. If we do that, we’ll be fine. It will be hard on their court.”
The three-pointer figures to be key once again as Union leads the GSC in made threes per game at 9.2 while the Blazers are last in the GSC in both three-point percentage (31.6 percent) and defending the three-point shot (38.7 percent).
“Union made 18 (threes) in a game against Mississippi College—“They’ve got four guys that can flat out stroke it as well as anybody in the league,” Helfer said. “That’s what makes them so dangerous. It’s not one guy.
“In game one, Pedro Faller and Ray Bullock came off the bench and made threes in the second half. It’s going to be a specific defensive effort to try to guard the three-point line.”
The Blazers close out the Tennessee swing against Christian Brothers on Saturday. The Bucs defeated the Blazers 77-74 in double-overtime on a three-pointer from freshman Jeff Larkin on Jan. 3.
Though the Bucs are just 4-6 on their home floor, Helfer expects another tough matchup in Canale Arena.
“(CBU) is very difficult to beat in there and I expect them to play well,” Helfer said. “I’m not sure how we’ll match up because usually all of their guys play really well at home. We’ll have to make sure we match that and get focused going into that game.”