Valdosta, GA - Valdosta State built a double digit first half lead and overcame a run by Lynn in the second half to defeat the Fighting Knights 90-67 in the Loop Pizza Grill Classic Friday evening at The Complex.
After a slow start that saw Valdosta State (6-2) connect on just three of 10 shots, the Blazers grabbed control of the game as they hit six of their next seven attempts to go on a 17-5 run. Kevin Harris scored nine of the 17 points as he connected on all four of his shots, including a three with 10:51 remaining in the first half that gave VSU a 24-11 lead.
Lynn (1-4) cut its deficit to single digits three times over the remainder of the half, only to have VSU respond with a minor run each time. The Valdosta State lead topped out at 15 on two occasions before settling at 44-34 at the halftime intermission.
The Blazers connected on 7-of-16 threes during the first half, including three by Harris who finished the half with a team-high 13 points. The Blazers also forced 11 turnovers in the frame.
The Fighting Knights opened the second half on a 13-5 run to pull within two points. Josh Garcia opened the half with a three-pointer, which was answered by Tristan Steele before Paul Hagler hit a lay-up for VSU. LU scored the next 11 points as four different Lynn players hit a basket, led by Jimmy Gaskins started the spurt with two free throws before closing it out with a jumper that closed LU to within 49-47.
The Lynn onslaught continued and eventually saw the Fighting Knights claim their first lead since the score stood at 3-2 when Gaskins hit a jumper to make it 54-53 with 14:30 to go in the game.
VSU scored four straight, on a lay-in by Hagler and two free throws by Will Alston, while Lynn responded with three straight points to close back to within a point. However, Steele hit a three and Harris added two more for the Blazers to stretch the Valdosta State advantage to 67-57 four minutes later.
Lynn got no closer than eight points the rest of the game as Valdosta State built its largest lead at 90-66 lead with 30 seconds remaining.
Harris connected on 7-of-10 threes in the game to score a game-high 29 points. Alston, who hit 10-of-11 free throws, added 18 points and nine rebounds while Steele hit four threes to contribute 14. The Blazers connected on 29-of-63 field goals in the game, including 13-of-28 threes, to shoot 46.0 percent from the field. VSU finished with a nine steals in the game while forcing Lynn into 19 turnovers.
Gaskins scored 26 to lead Lynn while Terrell Williams added 12 and Rodney Kennedy 11. The Fighting Knights shot 45.3 percent from the field as they connected on 24-of-53 shots, but struggled from the free throw line where they hit just 14-of-26 charity shots.
In the first game of the Classic, Alabama-Huntsville defeated Nova Southeastern 85-79.
Valdosta State concludes the Loop Pizza Grill Classic on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. when it hosts Nova Southeastern in The Complex. The first game of the day will feature Lynn versus Alabama-Huntsville at 6:00 p.m.