Tampa, Fla. – Valdosta State looked to make it a perfect sweep of Tampa Wednesday night, but the Spartans used 21 points from the free throw line to secure a 67-63 win and drop VSU to 2-3.
The game was close throughout with seven lead changes and 13 ties. Neither team led by double figures at any point, but Valdosta State matched its largest lead on a lay-up by Amanda Haven with 9:22 left to make it 60-52. That was the last field goal for VSU with the team’s final three points coming off free throws.
Tampa’s Lindsey Watson scored eight of the Spartans’ final 15 points to secure the second highest scoring night by a Spartan ever. She finished with 34 points. At the half, Watson had scored 24 with 15 points off three-pointers, but the VSU defense adjusted to only allow one second half field goal to Watson. The rest of her points were free throws.
Just one other Tampa player reached double figures on the night while three Lady Blazers dropped double-digits. Sczeny Hartry led the way with 18 points and a four of five shooting performance beyond the arc.
Brittany Ferguson and Dominique Smith cleaned up down low, each finishing with 10 points. Ferguson brought down eight boards to lead the team and received support from Courtney Mitchell with five rebounds. Jordan Waugh was the team’s top playmaker with four assists on the night.
Despite the loss, Valdosta State beat Tampa in a number of categories. The Lady Blazers outrebounded the Spartans by seven, and scored 24 points off the bench to Tampa’s two. Valdosta State scored 24 points in the pain and 12 second chance points to just 18 and four for Tampa.
The Lady Blazers also shot well, finishing 47.2 percent from the field and 61.5 percent from long range. Valdosta State did lose the foul count though, 20-13. Tampa was able to convert 21 of 26 free throws while VSU only shot nine.
Shakeda Richie scored first in the game, but Tampa answered seconds later. With VSU up, 7-5, Tampa went on an 8-0 run, but Valdosta State answered with a 7-1 run to tie it at 14 with 11:32 left in the half. Both teams dropped threes to get 17. Then the scoring stalled.
It was three minutes before Tampa broke the tie. The Lady Blazers responded quickly when Richie skied high for a rebound and put back. The Spartans tied it again at 23 for one of nine first half ties. Then VSU took off.
Mitchell dropped a long two followed by three-pointers from Haven and Hartry for an eight-point run to claim a 31-23 lead with three minutes left in the half. After that, Watson dropped nine points around two Taja Green free throws to end the half with 24 of her team’s 34 points.
But in the last two minutes of the first frame, Valdosta State scored nine points. Hartry scored on two baskets, one of which was a three, to give her a team leading 13 first half points. The other two baskets came from Smith, one of which was a buzzer beater at halftime.
Hartry hit her fourth three ball of the game to start VSU’s second half scoring and Bena Hanyard followed it with an old-fashioned three-point play on a strong drive down the lane. Nonetheless, Tampa stormed back to tie the game for the 10th time on two Watson free throws.
After that, the teams battled each other until Haven hit the last Valdosta State field goal at the 9:22 mark. Tampa went on a 15-3 run to finish the game.
The Lady Blazers will look to rebound with games against Georgia Southwestern and Talladega at this weekend’s Days INNvitational.
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