JACKSON, Tenn. – Down by as many as 15 points in the second half, the No. 9-ranked Valdosta State men's basketball team battled back and regained the lead with three minutes left, before falling at Union 84-79 Monday evening.
Union broke a 44-44 tie with a 15-0 run, but saw the Blazers, behind the strong play of sophomore Cam Hamilton chip into the deficit and regain the lead with 3:13 left. VSU, however, was unable to hold the lead as the 3's were falling for the Bulldogs all night.
Hamilton finished with a VSU career-high 19 points on 7 of 13 from the field and 5 of 9 from beyond the arc leading three Blazers in double figures. Senior Darrell Jones tallied a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds on 6 of 11 from the field with a triple and two free throws, while senior Clay Guillozet added 14 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double on 5 of 11 from the field and 4 of 5 from the line.
The Bulldogs (4-3, 1-1 GSC) shot lights out in the second half, as they were 16 of 27 from the field in the second half (59.3 percent) and a blistering 12 of 18 from beyond the arc in the second half alone, while draining 16 triples for the game. Tyree Boykin had a game-high 30 points on 10 of 21 from the field, 6 of 12 from beyond the arc and 4 of 5 from the line, leading four Bulldogs in double figures.
VSU (5-1, 1-1 GSC) struggled shooting in the game as it was 29 of 70 from the field, while going 8 of 28 from beyond the arc and 13 of 18 from the line. Union shot 49.2 percent for the game on 29 of 59, while going 16 of 32 from range and 10 of 11 from the line. VSU dominated inside to the tune of 38-18 and second chance points for a 22-7 advantage, but it was cold shooting and the three ball from Union which proved costly.
Just as on Saturday, the Blazers raced out to a quick lead – this time a 9-2 spurt to start the game in the first 2:09, but the Bulldogs had other intentions as they went on a 13-0 run capped with a bucket from Boykin for a 15-9 lead with 12:50 left. Union extended the run to 17-2 for a 19-11 lead with 10:59 left as the Blazers hadn't made a field goal since the 17:51 mark.
Hamilton ended the field goal drought with a layup with 10:39 left in the half as the Blazers began slowly chipping away at the deficit. VSU used a 7-0 run to pull within 21-20 on a pair of senior Tyler Edwards charity tosses with 8:10 left and then a dunk from Jones, followed by a layup from senior Bryce Smith regained the lead for the Blazers at 24-23 with 6:49 left.
The dunk sparked a 15-7 run as VSU led a 35-30 lead with 2:43 left in the half. Union had the last shot for the half on a layup from Boykin for a 38-32 VSU lead at the break.
In a tightly contested battle at halftime, both teams shot 13 of 32 from the field for a 40.6 average, while VSU was 3 of 14 from range and Union was 4 of 14 from beyond the arc. The Blazers were 9 of 13 from the line, while Union was 2 of 2. VSU held a slim lead in rebounding at 21-19 and 7-5 on the offensive end.
Jones had nine points and seven rebounds to lead the Blazer on 3 of 6 from the field with a triple and two free throws, while Terrandus Smith had a team-high eight points for the Bulldogs in the opening half.
Union opened the second half with a 9-4 run and pulled within 42-41 on a layup from Tylandrius Parks with 16:58 left and a timeout by the Blazers. Cooper Meadows tied the game at 44 with a triple with 15:56 left, extending the second half run to 12-6 for the Bulldogs.
Back-to-back triples from Smith gave Union a 50-44 lead with 14:09 left as the shooting woes continued for the Blazers, making just 3 of their first 15 shots, while Union was 7 of 11 with four coming beyond the arc to begin the half as Union was in the midst of the 15-0 run.
Then, Meadows buried his second triple of the half pushing the lead to 53-44 with 13:14 left and another timeout by the Blazers. The sixth triple of the second half from the Bulldogs swelled the deficit to 14 at 58-44 with 11:55 left and another timeout by the Blazers.
Out of the timeout, Hamilton once again had the answer for the Blazers with a bucket and followed with a triple on a kickout from junior Burke Putnam for a 59-50 deficit with 10:59 to play and a timeout by Union.
The treys kept falling for the Bulldogs as VSU had cut the deficit to seven, but a pair of triples from Boykin pushed the lead back over double-digits with 9:17 remaining. Hamilton answered with a steal and a layup and a triple quickly pulling VSU within 65-59. Hamilton then hit another trey pulling VSU within 67-62 with 6:32 remaining. Union had the answer, once again, with another trey on a hoop-and-harm for Boykin and a 71-63 lead.
Jones secured his third double-double and Guillozet scored on the other end pulling VSU with 73-70 with 4:49 left. Edwards scored on a layup for a 73-72 deficit as Union began to go cold down the stretch. Smith then used an emphatic dunk for a 74-73 VSU lead with 3:11 left.
The lead was short lived, however, as Boykin buried another triple moments later for a 76-74 Union lead. An offensive foul on the Blazers gave the ball back to Union with 2:35 remaining. Boykin again punished the Blazers with another triple for 28 points to that point and a 79-74 lead. Hamilton then answered with a triple at the other end as the game became a long-range contest.
Meadows hit another triple and Guillozet scored inside for an 82-79 deficit with 1:08 left. With 36 seconds left, trailing by three, VSU grabbed the defensive rebound and missed the shot with 12 seconds left. Boykin sealed the win at the line with two free throws, for the 84-79 victory.
The Blazers will look to rebound at the Terrace Hotel Thanksgiving Classic hosted by Florida Southern this weekend. VSU will face Saint Leo Friday at 5:30 p.m., and host Florida Southern Saturday at 7:30 p.m.