FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Valdosta State used a 14-4 run with less than eight minutes to play in the game to grab the lead en route to a 88-78 victory over Puerto Rico-Mayaguez at the Nova Southeastern Tip-Off Classic Saturday afternoon.
The Blazers (1-0) trailed 66-60 with 8:15 remaining in the contest before Drew Maynard began the run with a three-pointer. Josh Sparks followed with a fast break lay-up after coming up with a steal while Michael Panaggio connected on a pair of free throws to put VSU in front. Maynard added another bucket to extend the Valdosta State advantage to 69-66 before PRM (0-1) briefly regained the lead with back-to-back field goals by Juan Ramos. Will Alston converted a three-point play to once again put the Blazers in front while Maynard hit two free throws with 4:07 remaining in the game to close out the run with VSU leading 74-70.
Puerto Rico-Mayaguez closed to within three points with 2:50 remaining in the game, but got just two free throws the remainder of the game. Meanwhile, Panaggio sealed the victory with four free throws in the final minute.
Valdosta State led for much of the first half despite allowing PRM to shoot 50.0 percent from the floor in the half. The Tarzans scored the opening bucket of the game and added a pair of Luis Garcia free throws that tied the contest with 16:54 remaining before Valdosta State grabbed the lead for the remainder of the half. The VSU lead grew steadily throughout the half, topping out at 11 on two different occasions, the last coming on a jumper by Sparks with 3:16 remaining in the first 20 minutes of play. PRM scored the final six points of the half to trail just 41-37 at the intermission.
The Blazers pushed their lead back to eight points early in the second half only to have Puerto Rico-Mayaguez respond with an 11-2 run that gave the Tarzans the lead at 50-49 with 15:07 to play. The PRM advantage grew to as much as five points over the ensuing two minutes of action while Valdosta State evened the game at 56-56 with 12:28 remaining. A 10-4 spurt by Puerto Rico-Mayaguez set up the dramatic final eight minutes of play.
Five Blazers scored in double figures, led by Panaggio with 18. The junior made just four of his 10 field goals, but was successful on all 10 free throw attempts in the contest. Sparks and Maynard added 15 points each while Alston finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Chris Rozier just missed a double-double as he tallied 10 points and had nine boards.
Valdosta State connected on 32-of-77 field goal attempts to shoot 41.6 percent in the game, but blocked nine Tarzan field goal attempts, including three each by Maynard and Sparks. VSU also owned a 48-31 advantage in rebounding.
Alexander Molano scored 20 points to lead Puerto Rico-Mayaguez while Ramos added 18, Garcia 12 and Julian Rodriguez 11.PRM shot 27-of-55 from the floor (49.1 percent) and recorded 10 steals on 17 VSU turnovers.
Valdosta State returns to action Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. when it plays Nova Southeastern in the final game of the tournament.