LIVINGSTON, Ala. – Valdosta State scored nine of the first 10 points of overtime and withstood a West Alabama rally as the Blazers defeated the Tigers 91-88 in Gulf South Conference men's basketball action at Pruitt Hall Saturday evening.
With the win, VSU improved to 10-4 and 2-4 in GSC play while West Alabama fell to 5-7 and 1-4 in conference action.
Josh Sparks opened the overtime scoring with a pair of free throws while James Anacreon also added two charity shots and a lay-up. After Jack Hill hit a free throw for West Alabama, Patrick Diop connected on a three, but Valdosta State would not score again until Alan Love made one of two free throws with seven seconds to go. Meanwhile, UWA got three free throws and a three-pointer from Steven Samuels, but got no closer as a John Hoskins free throw with a second to go sealed the win.
The Blazers jumped out to an early lead as they forced West Alabama into seven turnovers during the first five minutes of action while connecting on their first five field goal attempts. Four different Blazers scored during the run, led by Sparks, who scored eight of the points, the last two of which gave VSU a 14-2 advantage with 15:02 to play in the first half.
West Alabama fought back over the ensuing four minutes of play, closing to within 18-17 on a Samuels lay-up with 10:42 to go in the half, only to have Valdosta State score the next 11 points to again open up a double-digit lead.
The Tigers again fought back, eventually closing to within 39-38 with just under a minute remaining before halftime, only to have Sparks hit one-of-two free throws to give VSU a 40-38 halftime advantage.
Sandy Underwood opened the second half with a three-pointer for UWA to give the Tigers their first lead of the game, only to have Sparks respond with a three-point play and Anacreon a pair of baskets to put VSU back in front. The Blazers built a 52-43 lead over the ensuing six minutes, only to have go cold from the field to allow West Alabama to take the lead.
The Blazers connected on just one of their 10 field goal attempts and turned the ball over four times during the West Alabama run, which saw the Tigers score 19 of 22 points to take a seven point lead with 7:55 to play in the contest.
West Alabama built a nine-point lead over the next four minutes, only to miss three of four free throws and its only field goal attempt. Meanwhile, Valdosta State made four free throws and three baskets to tie the game at 78 with 44 second remaining in regulation.
Sandy Underwood hit a basket with four seconds remaining to put UWA back in front, only to have Anacreon hit a basket at the buzzer to force the overtime period.
Anacareon led all scorers with 26 points and also had 14 rebounds while Sparks finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots. Shaquille Harris scored 16 points despite making only 4-of-13 field goal attempts and Diop finished with 12 to help VSU snap a three-game losing streak.
The Blazers made 28-of-66 shots to shoot 42.4 percent as a team and also connected on 29-of-42 free throws. In addition to blocking 10 shots, Valdosta State also came up with 13 steals on 26 UWA turnovers, but also committed 24 turnovers.
Stevens led West Alabama with 21 points while Underwood had 13 and Jacob Acker 11. The Tigers shot 40.9 percent as they made 27-of-66 field goals and owned a 47-44 advantage in rebounding.
Valdosta State takes the next six days off before returning to action next Saturday, January 19 when it travels to Pensacola, Fla. to face West Florida. Tip-off is slated for 5:00 p.m. Eastern.