Valdosta, GA -- Valdosta State pulled one step closer to second place in the Gulf South Conference with a strong performance against Alabama-Huntsville Thursday night. The Lady Blazer defense slowed the highest scoring team in the conference to 24 points less than its average leading to a 65-55 victory to move on to 17-5 on the season and 7-3 in conference play. Alabama-Huntsville drops to 17-4 and 8-2.
With strong rebounding, accurate shooting and suffocating team defense, the Lady Blazers defended home court yet again to move to 11-1 on the year in The Complex.
Brittany Ferguson led the team’s rebounding efforts with 15, but Bena Hanyard added nine boards with her game high 19 points. Courtney Mitchell and Brittney Nelson each added eight boards a piece to give VSU a 47-38 advantage on the glass. That led to 15 second chance points for VSU.
While Hanyard paced VSU in scoring, both Mitchell and Sczeny Hartry scored 11 points each. Mitchell added three assists. Maylisa Johnson gave out four assists in the game.
Valdosta State shot efficiently from the floor, going 22 of 55 for 40 percent overall and four of 10 from long range for 40 percent on three-point shooting. The VSU defense kept Alabama-Huntsville to just 31.3 percent shooting overall and 27.8 percent from long range. Alabama-Huntsville averages a conference leading 8.4 threes made per game and VSU only allowed five of 18 to the Chargers.
The Chargers scored the first four points of the game on baskets by their two highest scorers, Jordan Smith first , then Jasmine Hammon for an early 4-0 lead. It would be Alabama-Huntsville’s largest lead of the night, and it came and went just 44 seconds into the game.
Nelson answered with a three-pointer and Ferguson made a free throw to tie it. The Lady Blazers would tie it again at 9-9, then Hanyard gave VSU its first lead with a lay-up to make it 11-9, VSU. Nelson followed with a jump shot off a Kourtnee Williams assist.
After a basket from UAH’s Alysse Bishop, the Lady Blazers went to work again. Hanyard scored on a layu-up followed by a lay-up from Mitchell. Natalie Kelley broke the run, but Williams answered with a three-pointer for VSU to gain it’s largest lead to that point, 20-13.
Alabama-Huntsville closed the gap to just three points twice in the final 10 minutes of the first half, but with 3:01 left in the first frame, Valdosta State went on a 9-3 run to claim an 11-point lead, 35-24, at the break.
The Chargers again scored the first two baskets to start the second half, but Mitchell slowed UAH with a jump shot set up by Johnson. Hartry followed with a lay-up, then Ferguson scored for a 41-29 lead. The Lady Blazers would push the lead all the way to 16 points on three separate occasions with the latest coming at the 4:11 mark.
As they did in the first, the Chargers made another push late and closed the gap to six points with 1:48 left, but Valdosta State made enough free throws to hold off UAH and secure the win.
Valdosta State will look to seek more vengeance for the first conference road trip of the season when the Lady Blazers host North Alabama at 6 p.m. Saturday for VSU’s Pink Zone night. The Complex will be full of pink so be sure to wear pink to support breast cancer awareness and your Lady Blazers.