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Strong second-half leads Blazers to come-from-behind victory over Delta State

Posted at 11:31 PM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 23:31:42-05

VALDOSTA, Ga. ( — Behind four players in double figures and a blistering second half, the Valdosta State men's basketball team battled back for a 79-66 victory Thursday evening versus Delta State at The Complex. VSU trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half and outscored the Statesmen 46-26 in the second half for the victory.

VSU improved to 8-7 overall and 4-4 in Gulf South Conference play, while Delta State fell to 6-9 overall and 5-4 in league play. The Blazers finished the game 28 of 64 from the field for a 43.8 average, while DSU was 27 of 64 for a 42.2 clip. VSU was 9 of 22 from beyond the arc (.409) and 14 of 27 from the line, while DSU was 10 of 29 from range and was just 2 of 11 from the stripe.

Individually, junior Cam Hamilton had a team-high 18 points on 7 of 13 from the field and 4 of 6 from range, while sophomore DJ Mitchell had 16 points off the bench on 5 of 11 from the field and 3 of 5 from range, along with 3 of 6 from the line and eight rebounds. Junior Mohamed Fofana narrowly missed a double-double with eight points and 12 rebounds. Junior Jacolbey Owens added 13 points and five assists, while junior Maurice Gordon chipped in 10 points.

The Statesmen had five players in double figures led by 14 points from Desmond Franklin on 6 of 8 from the field with one triple. Lee Cotton and Kelan Dietrich each had 13 points, while Maalik Cartwright and Airen Brooks finished with ten points each. Brooks missed a double-double by one rebound.

The Statesmen opened the game scoring 17 of the first 23 points through the first seven minutes of the contest as DSU opened the game 7 of 15 from the field, while VSU was 3 of 12. A jumper from Blazer sophomore Justyn King and a trey from Mitchell pulled VSU within 17-11 with 11:34 left in the first half. Mitchell then had a steal off Cotton, who began the game 4 of 6 from the field and 1 of 2 from beyond the arc for the Statesmen.

Out of a media timeout, a triple from Kasey Walker-Gregg and a Cotton bucket pushed the lead to 22-11, but Mitchell answered with a trey for a 22-14 score with just over nine minutes left in the half. Owens pulled VSU within eight at 24-16 with a turnaround jumper in the paint with 7:47 left in the half. DSU opened the game 10 of 22 from the field to that point, while VSU was 7 of 21. The Statesmen were 4 of 10 from range, while VSU was 2 of 8.

Blazer freshman Ricky Brown buried a triple in the corner, pulling VSU within six at 25-19, but DSU had the answer with a triple at the other end. Hamilton scored with a driving layup inside as the teams began to heat up offensively. The teams traded buckets on the next three possessions each as DSU led 32-25 with 4:47 left in the half. Two misses at the line by the Statesmen and a "hoop and harm" foul for Owens pulled the Blazers within 32-28 with 4:31 remaining in the half. After two more misses at the line by the Statesmen and turnover on the Blazers, Brooks hit a trey for a 35-28 lead with 3:47 left in the first half.

Owens scored his seventh point of the game and pulled VSU back within five at 35-30 with 2:32 left in the half. He then drew a foul on the Statesmen as he made one of two at the line for a 35-31 deficit with under two minutes left in the half. Mitchell scored inside off an offensive rebound for a 37-33 deficit in the final minute, but Brooks answered with a trey for a 40-33 lead at intermission.

For the half, VSU shot 14 of 34 from the field for 41.2 percent, while it was 3 of 14 from range and 2 of 5 from the line. DSU went 16 of 31 from the field for 51.6 percent and was 7 of 15 from deep, but was just 1 of 8 from the line. Cotton led the way for DSU going 6 of 9 from the field and 1 of 3 from deep for 13 points, while Mitchell was 4 of 8 from the field and 2 of 3 from deep for ten points and Owens was 3 of 5 from the field and 2 of 3 from the line for eight points.

A backdoor cut from junior Mohammed Fofana off an assist from Owens pulled VSU within 42-38 with 16:01 left in the second half, but an offensive rebound and put back from Brooks pushed the DSU lead back to six at 44-38. Hamilton hit a trey for a 44-41 deficit out of a timeout with 14 minutes left. A put back from Fofana cut the deficit to one as DSU went ice cold at 44-43. The Statesmen were 2 of 15 from the field in the second half, while VSU wasn't much better to that point at 4 of 13. Junior Maurice Gordon tied the game at 44 for a 10-2 run by the Blazers with 12:40 left. Fofana made two more free throws giving VSU its first lead since 2-0 at 46-44 and a 12-2 run with 12:18 left.

DSU ended a long scoring drought with a hoop and foul for Desmond Franklin with 11:52 left and a 46-46 score. Hamilton turned up the heat in the corner for a trey, giving VSU its largest lead of the game at 49-46 at the other end. VSU opened the half outscoring DSU 16-6 through the first nine minutes. Hamilton then connected on his third triple of the game and a 54-50 lead with 9:06 remaining. A steal by Hamilton and a flush from sophomore Cam Selders pushed the VSU lead to 56-50 and then another steal from Hamilton earned him two free throws and the fourth foul on Maalik Cartwright with 8:21 to play. Hamilton missed both tosses and Kelen Dietrich hit a triple from the corner for a 56-53 score with 7:46 left.

Hamilton picked another pocket for an easy layup in transition and 58-53 lead, followed by a block for Selders and Mitchell made one of two at the line pushing the lead to 59-53. Mitchell scored on wide-open trey and a 63-56 lead with less than five minutes remaining.

Out of the media timeout, a jump ball gave it back to VSU and Owens scored inside for a 67-58 lead, but Dietrich answered with a trey at the other end for a 67-61 VSU lead and 3:09 left. Gordon made two free throws for a 69-61 advantage. He then intercepted the pass at the other end as VSU began to slow the pace to run some clock. Following a personal foul on Dietrich, Cartwright slammed the ball and earned a technical foul as VSU pushed the lead to 71-61 with 2:28 left, marking the largest lead of the game for the Blazers.

Gordon buried a triple for a 74-61 advantage and Hamilton added a triple for a 77-61 lead with 1:06 remaining as VSU outscored Delta State 44-21 to that point in the second half, after trailing by as many as 11 in the first half. VSU went on for the 79-66 victory.

The Blazers continue at home on Saturday for Hall of Fame Weekend at 4 p.m. versus Mississippi College. Earlier in the day, VSU will honor its 25th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony with a 10 a.m. brunch at the Student Union Ballroom located at 1500 N. Patterson Street, Valdosta, GA, 31698. Fans can purchase tickets for the brunch at the link to the right of this article ($25 per person). The brunch ticket will also allow access to the VSU basketball doubleheader at The Complex that afternoon beginning at 2 p.m. with the women's game.