VALDOSTA, Ga. – Behind 25 points in the second half from senior Beau Justice , the top-seeded Valdosta State men's basketball team put away No. 8-seed Union University, 92-76 Tuesday evening, in the quarterfinal round of the 2019 Gulf South Conference Championship.
The Blazers now will face the No. 5-seed Delta State on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET at the Pete Hanna Center in Birmingham, Ala. Click on the link at the top of the page for the GSC Men's Basketball Tournament Central. VSU and DSU split the season series with both teams winning on their respective home floors. It also is a rematch of a semifinal from last season as DSU won 63-59 last season in the conference tournament.
VSU (24-5) earns a berth in its third-straight GSC Semifinal with the win on Tuesday evening, as it improved to 19-23 all-time in the GSC Championship and will mark the 11thtrip in program history to the semifinal round. VSU has been to five finals, but has never won the conference tournament title.
Justice, who potentially played his last collegiate game at The Complex in his storied career, scored ten points in the first half, exploded in the second as he was 8 of 14 from the field for the second half alone, went 5 of 8 from distance and 4 of 4 from the line. With VSU leading 69-65 with 7:39 left, Justice scored 17-straight points for VSU as the Blazers extended the lead to 18 at 86-68 with a 17-3 run with 3:41 left. During the run, he had five-straight 3-pointers and two free throws.
He finished the game with 35 points on 11 of 22 from the field, 7 of 13 from beyond the arc and 6 of 7 from the line, while pulling down five rebounds with four assists and one steal. Justice led three Blazers in double figures as junior Bryce Smith scored 17 points off the bench with 12 in the second half as he was 7 of 12 from the field with one triple and 2 of 3 from the line. He had seven rebounds. Junior Clay Guillozet added 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Earlier today, the Gulf South Conference announced its 2018-19 All-Conference Teams as Justice was a first team selection for the second-straight year and senior Winston Morgan was second team honoree. Morgan finished tonight's game with five points and one triple. Morgan needs seven to break his own school-record of 106 triples in season set in 2017-18. With Justice's 35 points tonight, he moved into fifth all-time in school history with 1,707 points, surpassing Bobby Ritch (1964-68). Justice is 76 points out of fourth (Ivey Hubbard).
As a team, the Blazers shot a blistering 55.2 percent on 32 of 58 from the field. VSU drained 14 triples for a 45.2 average, while going 14 of 18 from the line. Union shot 43.3 from the field on 29 of 67, while draining 13 triples and went just 5 of 7 from the line. Both teams had 34 rebounds in the contest, while Union dominated the offensive glass, 13-6 and 16-9 in second chance points.
For the Bulldogs (16-13), Payton Stovall led the team with 21 points on 8 of 15 from the field with five triples, while second team all-league performer Terrandus Smith added 20 points on 8 of 18 from the field with three triples.
VSU opened the game on fire, racing out to a 13-2 lead with a triple from Guillozet with 16:27 left in the first half. The Blazers then stretched the lead to 24-7 on a layup from Smith, but the Bulldogs wouldn't go quietly as they outscored VSU 17-1 from there to pull within one on a triple from Terrandus Smith with 7:05 left in the first half at 25-24.
The Blazers didn't sweat as they quickly stretched the lead back to double-digits with a 9-0 run for a 34-24 lead with 5:04 left in the half. Union scored the final bucket of the half trimming the deficit to 43-37 at intermission.
A pair of treys from Stovall tied the game at 43 with 17:20 left in the game, but the Blazers had the answer as Smith scored inside. Union's LiDonta Hicks-Gentry gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 46-45 and later he buried a triple for a 51-48 Union lead with 15:22 left.
Senior Tyler Johnson hit a big triple on an assist from junior Darrell Jones with 15 minutes left to tie the game as the VSU crowd came to life, once again. Stovall quickly answered, but a jumper from Justice and a tip-in from Smith followed as the game was at a frantic pace.
Stovall tied the game at 57 with 12:25 left, but a layup from senior Desmond DeRamus put VSU up for good with 12:09 remaining. Bryce Smith buried a triple for a 69-62 lead with 8:02 left and Terrandus Smith answered in kind at the other end, prior to the 17-point outburst from Justice.