VALDOSTA, Ga. – Tristan Steele scored 26 points to lead Valdosta State to an 93-83 upset of No. 17 Rollins in the final game of the Gulf South Conference versus Sunshine State Conference Challenge at The Complex Saturday evening.
Valdosta State (1-1) used three early three-pointers by Tristan Steele to jump out to an 11-5 lead. Steele opened the scoring with a trifecta and, after Nick Wolf, connected on a jumper for Rollins (1-1), drained a second straight shot from the left corner to put VSU up four. After a RC three-pointer cut the Tars deficit back to a single point, Kevin Harris hit a jumper in the lane and Steele added his third three in as many chances to post the Blazers to a six point lead.
The Tars fought back and eventually tied the game at 26-26 on a Wolf lay-up on a fast break, only to have Steele hit his fifth three of the half to put VSU back in front. After the junior added a fast break lay-in, Matt Robertson responded with a three and Wolf hit one of two free throws, but the Blazers proceeded to score four straight points en route to a 40-34 halftime lead.
Rollins used an 11-5 run to open the second half to even the game at 45-45 with 17:15 to go in the contest. Nikola Baron keyed the run as he scored on a three-point play and hit back-to-back trifectas to tie the ball game.
Valdosta State responded with a 15-2 run over the ensuing three and a half minutes to grab a double digit lead at 60-47. Christian Hunter connected on a pair of threes during the run and Steele added his seventh of the game while Josh Sparks fed Will Alston for a layup for the final points to force a Rollins timeout with 13:49 to go in the game.
The Blazers maintained their double digit lead for the next seven minutes before Robertson connected on a jumper to close Rollins to within 75-66 with 6:23 to play. The two teams traded three-point plays on consecutive trips down the court and the nine point VSU lead held for the next five minutes before Wolf scored on a lay-up to close the Valdosta State advantage to 83-76 with 2:09 remaining.
Kevin Harris responded with a jumper to push the advantage back to nine points while Robertson drove the lane for a dunk, but Steele proceeded to strip Wolf on a fast break. The Blazers hit eight of 12 free throws in the final 62 seconds to seal the victory.
Steele connected on eight of his 14 three-point field goals as the Blazers hit 14 threes in the game. Harris added 23 points while Hunter finished with 15, Billy McShepard 11 and Sparks 10. Valdosta State connected on 31-of-53 field goals in the game to shoot 53 percent from the field and dished out 15 assists while blocking six Tars shots in the contest.
Wolf tallied a team-high 22 points while Baran finished with 20. Robertson poured in 15 and Ian Scott 14 for Rollins, which shot 44.3 percent in the game. RC connected on nine threes and dished out 19 assists while turning the ball over just seven times.
Vadosta State returns to action Tuesday, November 16 when the Blazers host Fort Valley State at 7:30 p.m. in The Complex.