VALDOSTA, Ga. – Valdosta State overcame a slow start that saw it fall behind by 12 points to defeat Clayton State 81-69 in non-conference men’s basketball action at The Complex Saturday afternoon.
Valdosta State (5-2) connected on just one of its first 16 field goal attempts as it fell behind 16-4 over the course of the first 10 minutes of the game. Timmy Downs opened the scoring with a three on the opening possession of the game while the two teams played scoreless for the next two minutes of play. Kevin Harris contributed a jumper in the lane for VSU to break the scoring drought, but the Blazers proceeded to miss their next nine field goal attempts while getting two free throws from Will Alston. Clayton State (4-2) took advantage of the slump to build its largest lead of the game on a Downs trifecta that posted the Lakers to a 12-point advantage with 10:31 remaining.
The Blazers got hot from their as they scored on 11 of the next 17 field goals. Sidney Harris hit a three to open the VSU scoring run before Harris added a jumper. After a dunk by Brandon Robinson for CSU, Paul Hagler hit a lay-up and Tristan Steele contributed a three before Sidney Harris added another jumper to pull Valdosta State to within 18-16.
Robinson hit a three to push the CSU lead back to five points, only to have the Blazers score the next six points, including a three by Kevin Harris that gave VSU its first lead at 22-21. Clayton State briefly regained a three-point lead only to have Valdosta State once again battle back for a one-point advantage as the two teams traded the lead four times in the last three minutes of the first half en route to a 32-32 tie at the intermission.
Valdosta State continued the hot shooting in the opening moments of the second half as it connected on nine of its first 12 shots of the frame, including 6-of-7 threes, to build a 58-45 lead with 12:31 remaining in the game.
Clayton State scored the next eight points of the game to close to within five points, but Christian Hunter hit three straight trifectas and Kevin Harris added a put-back basket to push the VSU lead back to 69-53 with 7:30 remaining.
The Lakers used one last run to close to within 76-67 with 1:25 remaining in the game, but got no closer.
Kevin Harris led four Valdosta State players in double figures as he finished with 22 while Sidney Harris tallied 16. Will Alson finished 14 and Paul Hagler 11 for VSU, which ended up hitting 28-of-63 shots in the game, a 44.4 percent success rate. The Blazers recorded seven steals while turning the ball over just eight times.
Downs scored 22 points to lead Clayton State while Robinson added 17 and Andrew Bachanov 10. CSU shot 40.3 percent from the floor as it hit 29-of-72 shots, but hit just four free throws in the game while VSU connected on 13.
Valdosta State takes the next week off before returning to action Friday, December 3 when it opens play in The Loop Pizza Grill Classic in The Complex. The Blazers will face Lynn at 8:00 p.m. on Friday while hosting Nova Southeastern at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday.