Sophomore forward Caden Boser just couldn’t be stopped against West Alabama.
Boser’s 24 points on 9-14 shooting helped lead the Blazers (12-6, 8-4 Gulf South Conference) past the Tigers (13-3, 9-3 GSC), 96-84.
Head coach Mike Helfer credited Boser’s decision making to help create a favorable matchup inside the paint.
“He [Boser] was really able to score it on the low block, and I think that they weren’t expecting that,” Helfer said. “He’s just a smart player and knows how to play, so we just got it to him and just let him kind of dictate a little bit from the low block.”
It was an advantage that proved critical for the Blazers, who were facing the GSC’s top rebounding team in the Tigers.
The Tigers dominated VSU in rebounds, snatching 48 boards compared to just 27 for the Blazers. The Tigers also had as many offensive rebounds as the Blazers had total rebounds, something that Helfer said he’s rarely seen in his time as a head coach.
“They’re the best offensive rebounding team I think I might have seen since I’ve been here,” Helfer said. “We knew that on video, but when you get it in person, it’s really unbelievable how they offensive rebound the basketball. Give our guys a lot of credit. I thought we battled better in the second half. We weren’t great, but we were better in the second half for sure.”
The Blazers started off the game with a scoring flurry, building an early 15-3 lead that included the game’s first nine points.
The Tigers wasted no time closing the gap, going on a 16-5 run to draw within one. The rest of the first half turned into a shootout, but it was West Alabama who went into halftime with a 49-48 lead.
The rebounding advantage was a big talking point at halftime, according to Boser. The Tigers had more than triple the number of rebounds as the Blazers, holding a 27-8 advantage.
“We knew that they had like 18 offensive rebounds at halftime,” Boser said. “As a team, we just came together and we just said, ‘Hey, we got to box out. We got to get rebounds and finish defensive possessions.’”
While they were still outrebounded 21-19 in the second half, the Blazers’ halftime adjustments proved vital.
The Blazers busted the game out to a 74-64 lead midway through the second half. The Tigers never got within six points the rest of the way.
In addition to getting more rebounds, the Blazers also found themselves at the free throw line throughout the second half. In all, VSU had 18 of their 20 free throw attempts come in the second half.
“It was just a physical basketball game,” Helfer said. “Both teams played really hard, really physical. I think part of that physicality got us to the free throw line, and we were able to make them. We shot 85% from the free throw line, so hopefully we can continue to do that.”
The Blazers will be back in action on Jan. 12 at 7:30 p.m. when they travel to Rome, Georgia, to face Shorter.
VSU will then head to Cleveland, Tennessee, for a showdown against Lee on Jan. 14. That game will tip off at 4 p.m.
Written by Austin Bruce, Sports Editor. Photo courtesy of VSU.