HOMEWOOD, Al. — The No. 8-ranked and top-seeded Valdosta State men's basketball team has its school-record 19-game winning streak snapped in a 91-82 loss in the Gulf South Conference Championship game Sunday afternoon to No. 3-seed Alabama Huntsville.
The loss dropped VSU to 26-4 on the year, while UAH improved to 26-5 and earned an automatic berth in the NCAA South Regional. The pairings for the 2020 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Championship will be unveiled Sunday evening at 10:30 p.m., on NCAA.com. Click on the link to the right to watch the selection show.
The Blazers entered the GSC Championship at No. 2 in the latest rankings and should be in a good position to earn an at large berth to the NCAA regional for the 12th time in program history. VSU fell to 0-6 all-time in GSC Championship Games with the loss Sunday, and has dropped the past two conference tournament title games to UAH, with the previous one being in 2017.
VSU didn't have the balanced offensive attack on Sunday as it has had for much of the season. Senior Clay Guillozet finished with a game-high 26 points on 9 of 14 from the field, while draining seven treys and gathered six rebounds. Senior Darrell Jones finished with 21 points on 9 of 13 from the field and 3 of 3 from range. No other Blazer was in double figures in the game. Senior Bryce Smith had 11 rebounds, but was limited to just four points. Both Guillozet and Jones were named to the GSC All-Tournament Team following the championship game.
The Blazers shot 30 of 62 from the field, while going 14 of 31 from beyond the arc, but was just 8 of 13 from the line. The 14 treys tied the season-high set against Thomas (Dec. 19).
UAH had six players in double figures and shot 60 percent for the first half on 18 of 30 from the field, while going 31 of 53 (58.5) for the game, marking the highest field goal against percentage versus the Blazers all season. Max Shulman went 7 of 12 from the field and dropped six of ten triples and two free throws for 22 points to lead the team, while Malik Cook-Stroupe added 18 points and JJ Kaplan had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Chargers matched VSU's 14 treys and were 15 of 16 from the line.
Continuing the momentum from last night, VSU came out of the gates on fire and built an 18-7 lead through the first seven minutes. Sophomore Cam Hamilton nailed a triple for a 24-10 lead with 12:17 remaining in the half, but the Chargers roared back, pulling within 26-25 on a 15-2 run with 9:40 left in the half.
The Chargers took the lead for a majority of the remainder of the half, but Hamilton hit another trey with 1:04 left for a 47-46 lead before intermission. Guillozet buried a triple for a 50-46 lead with 32 seconds left, but Shulman scored a layup with nine ticks remaining for a 50-48 VSU lead at the break.
Jones hit a triple early in the second half for a 55-50 lead, but UAH took over using a 14-3 run for a 64-58 lead with 13:26 left. Two big buckets from senior Tyler Edwards pulled VSU within 64-62, but Kerney Lane buried a triple pushing the lead to four at 69-65 with 9:44 remaining.
VSU would get within three on three occasions down the stretch, but the hot-shooting Chargers had the answer each time and converting their free throws. Later, Blazer junior Burke Putnam, who dropped 29 points last night versus West Alabama, scored on a jumper off a steal from Jones for an 80-77 deficit with 4:05 left.
Another trey from Shulman pushed the lead to six at 83-77 with 3:42 left. Two free throws pulled VSU within four at 83-79 with 3:34 remaining, but UAH closed the game with a 12-3 run as Putnam hit the only field goal for the Blazers the remainder of the game with 36 seconds left.