Valdosta State comeback falls short

Posted at 10:03 PM, Jan 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-19 17:05:38-05
PENSACOLA, Fla. West Florida built a 21-point second half lead and withstood a Valdosta State rally that saw the Blazers close to within three points as the Argonauts defeated VSU 99-93 in Gulf South Conference men's basketball action at the UWF Fieldhouse Saturday evening.
With the win, West Florida improved to 8-7 overall and 3-4 in GSC play while Valdosta State fell to 10-5 and 2-5 in league action.
West Florida raced out to an early lead as it forced Valdosta State into four turnovers in the first four minutes of the game while connecting on 7-of-12 field goals to build a 14-6 lead.
The Argonaut lead remained steady for the ensuing seven minutes before UWF used a 17-3 run to build a 19-point advantage. The Blazers missed seven of their eight field goal attempts during the run while West Florida completed seven of its 10 attempts. Lendward Griffin closed out the run with a lay-up with 3:33 to go in the first half that posted UWF to a 42-23 advantage.
Valdosta State closed to within 14 points three times over the remainder of the half, the last coming on a David Murray lay-up off of a Patrick Diop steal with six seconds to go that established a 52-38 Argonaut lead at the half.
West Florida shot 61 percent from the field in the first half as it made 22 of its 36 field goal attempts.
UWF continued its hot shooting in the early minutes of the second half as it made its first seven shots of the frame to open a 68-47 advantage.
With the West Florida lead standing at 70-49, Valdosta State used a 13-2 run to get back into the game. Shaquille Harris spurred the run as he hit three three-pointers and added a fast break dunk with 10:28 to play in the game to pull VSU within 72-62.
UWF answered the run by scoring the next four points of the game, only to have the Blazers score 13 of the next 20 to close to within 81-73 with 5:03 remaining.
Valdosta State's deficit got no lower than eight and no higher than 12 the next three minutes before Diop put together an eight-point run by himself to close VSU to within 91-88 with 1:16 remaining. The junior guard made two free throws and drained a pair of three-pointers from the top of the key to get VSU to within three points.
Diop led all scorers as he made 11-of-22 field goals, including 4-of-9 three-pointers, as well as 12-of-13 free throws for 38 points. Harris added 20 as the Blazers shot 41.9 percent from the field and 78.6 percent from the free throw line.
Terrence Beasley scored 23 points to lead West Florida while Ellis Young added 22 and Peter Connole 19. Griffin added 16 and Jason Laatsch 11 as the Argonauts made 38 of their 65 shots (58.5 percent). UWF also owned a 43-36 advantage in rebounding.
Valdosta State returns home and opens a four-game homestand when it hosts Christian Brothers at 8:00 p.m. in The Complex. VSU will honor its 2012 National Championship football team at halftime of the game.