Valdosta, GA -- In the only game left between Gulf South Conference unbeatens, Alabama-Huntsville prevailed over Valdosta State, 73-69, despite 27 points and 19 rebounds from Brittany Ferguson. The Lady Chargers move to 3-0 in the GSC and 12-2 overall while Valdosta State drops to 11-3 and 2-1 in conference play.
It was a tail of two halves Thursday night for Valdosta State. After scoring an impressive 44 points on 51.3 percent shooting in the first half, the Lady Blazers dropped to just 25 percent in the second half to finish with 25 second half points.
Still, two Lady Blazers doubled up in the effort. In addition to Ferguson, Courtney Mitchell finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season. Other positives for VSU include scoring 42 points in the paint, 16 off turnovers, 12 on the second chance and 16 points off the bench, all numbers better than UAH.
Valdosta State also dominated the glass, finishing with 46 rebounds to just 36 for UAH. The Lady Blazers brought down 22 offensive rebounds to just nine for the Lady Chargers.
It took little time to see why Alabama-Huntsville is the highest scoring team in the Gulf South Conference. The Lady Chargers pushed the tempo early, but Valdosta State was able to respond.
Both teams were neck and neck until Valdosta State made a move when trailing 21-17 with 11:34 in the first half. The Lady Blazers went on an 11-0 run before the Lady Chargers could slow VSU down. Ferguson, who was a scoring machine in the first half with 15 points, started the run with a lay-up.
Sczeny Hartry followed Ferguson’s basket with a three-pointer, then VSU began to find holes in the post in UAH’s pressure defense. Mitchell hit a lay-up followed by two from Ferguson for a 28-21 lead with 8:16 left to play in the half.
That run proved to be the difference in the first half as both teams traded baskets throughout the rest of the half. Valdosta State claimed a 44-38 lead at the break led by Ferguson’s 15 points and Mitchell’s 13 from both inside and outside. Mitchell’s 13 first half points were the most she’s scored in an entire game all season.
Alabama-Huntsville’s leading scorers on the season, Jasmine Hammon (17.2 points per game) and Jordan Smith (17.2 ppg) held par with 16 points each in the first half. The Valdosta State defense, however, held all other Lady Chargers to just six points combined with three players scoring two points each.
Both teams were shooting at a great rate with Alabama-Huntsville converting 43.3 percent of its shots and VSU shooting 41.3 percent in the first half. The Lady Blazers were able to gain the advantage on the glass with 23 rebounds to just 16 for UAH. Mitchell led VSU’s efforts with eight boards in the first half.
Mitchell and Ferguson’s efforts led to 26 first half points in the paint and nine second chance points. The Lady Blazers also forced 10 turnovers with five steals to score seven points off turnovers. Nelson and Hanyard helped VSU gain the advantage in first half bench points, 7-2.
Alabama-Huntsville’s Bailee Robinson started the second half scoring with a made free throw, but the Lady Blazers quickly answered after Kourtnee Williams stole the ball. She found Ferguson underneath for VSU’s first two points of the second half and one of eight Williams assists on the night.
Williams scored next for VSU, but Robinson scored again for the Lady Chargers. Then Brittney Nelson buried a three-pointer from the corner followed by another Ferguson basket for a 53-41 lead with 14:36 left to play.
Trailing 54-41, Alabama-Huntsville put a run of its own together. Shannon Steinert scored on a lay-up then Robinson made a three-point play the traditional way. Smith scored next for a 7-0 run before Valdosta State called a timeout.
Valdosta State scored four points out of the timeout, but then UAH went on a 10-0 run. Robinson dropped a three-pointer followed by two free throws from Juanice Newton before a three-pointer from Smith. Newton hit two more free throws after that before VSU’s Ferguson finally broke the run to give VSU a 60-58 lead with 8:26 left to play. At the 6:44 mark, UAH took its first lead of the second half on a Hammon free throw. Ferguson tied it up again on a free throw at the 6:02 mark.
After that, Smith buried another three-pointer, her third of the game, followed by a lay-up from UAH’s Morgan Duncan for a 66-61 UAH lead with 4:55 left to play. Both teams would go scoreless until Robinson hit a free throw at the 1:20 mark for a 67-61 UAH lead.
From there, it was all free throws down the stretch with six Alabama-Huntsville free throws falling and four for VSU. Bena Hanyard and Maylisa Johnson would find enough space for lay-ups, but it would not be enough as the Lady Blazers fell, 73-69.
Smith finished with 26 points from Smith, 19 from Hammon and 14 from Robinson. Natalie Kelley led UAH in rebounding with seven.
Valdosta State will return to action against North Alabama at 2 p.m. Saturday.