VALDOSTA, Ga. - Billy McShepard (Windsor, N.C., Louisburg CC) recorded his seventh double-double of the season to lead No. 24 Valdosta State to a 102-84 Gulf south Conference victory over North Alabama at The Complex Thursday evening.
McShepard scored a career-high 23 points and pulled down 14 rebounds while also blocking three shots in the game. The senior connected on 10-of-16 field goal attempts and 3-of-5 free throws in just 25 minutes of play.
With the win, the Blazers improved to 14-2 on the season and 1-0 in GSC play while North Alabama fell to 7-10 and 0-1 in league action.
North Alabama raced out to an early lead as the Lions scored 13 of the first 17 points of the game while hitting four of their first five field goal attempts. Valdosta State fought back and eventually claimed a 15-13 lead with 14:31 remaining in the first half.
UNA scored the next five points of the game to regain the lead, but lost its shooting touch over the next seven minutes as it connected on just two of 11 field goal attempts. The Blazers took advantage of the cold shooting by the Lions as they put together a 17-5 run to grab control of the contest.
McShepard opened the run with a dunk before Martrez Scott (Eatonton, Ga., Fort Valley State) hit a free throw to tie the ball game. After a Nick Luttrell jumper for North Alabama, McShepard added another dunk and hit two free throws to put VSU in front. A pair of Christian Hunter (Chagrin Falls, Ohio, VMI) free throws extended the Blazer advantage, but Wes Long responded with a three to close the Lions to within 24-23. Kevin Harris (Douglas, Ga., Northwest Mississippi CC) responded with a three and Will Alston (Washington, D.C., Jacksonville) added a bucket for the Blazers before Harris fed Josh Sparks (Savannah, Ga., Jacksonville) for a lay-up and the forward added a free throw for a three-point play to give Valdosta State a 32-23 advantage with 6:23 remaining in the half.
North Alabama closed to within 39-34 over the next four minutes only to have VSU claim a 44-36 halftime advantage.
McShepard nearly tallied a double-double during the first half as he scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Long led the Lions as he hit three of his six three-pointers and finished with 11 points. The Blazers shot 51.7 percent from the field in the half while holding North Alabama to 36.1 percent.
After hitting just one of six three-pointers in the first half, the Blazers found their range from beyond the arc in the opening five minutes of the second half as they connected on 4-of-5 trifectas during the span. Spurred on by the hot shooting, VSU pushed its lead to 69-49 on a McShepard jumper with 13:10 remaining in the game.
The Blazer lead reached as high as 95-72 over the remained of the game while xx put VSU into triple digits for the third straight game, and the fourth time in five contests, with a Scott three-pointer with 2:06 remaining.
Harris added 22 points for VSU while Hunter added 19 and Sparks 12. Alston contributed 11 and Scott 13 for the Blazers, who shot 58.2 percent from the floor in the game, including 63.2 percent in the second half. Valdosta State owned a 40-33 advantage in rebounding in the contest and recorded nine steals on 14 UNA turnovers.
Ricky Davison led North Alabama with 20 points while Long added 14 and Beaumont Beasley 12. Warrick Mastin and Luttrell contributed 10 each as UNA shot 43.5 percent from the floor in the game, including 51.5 percent in the second half.
Valdosta State returns to action Saturday, January 15 at 8:00 p.m. when it hosts No. 9 Alabama-Huntsville in The Complex.
For further information, visit: www.vstateblazers.com