BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - In a game that featured eight lead changes, Valdosta State shot 61 percent from the field in the second half to defeat West Alabama 84-71 in the first round of the 2014 Raymond James Gulf South Conference Basketball Tournament Thursday at the Pete Hanna Center.
The loss eliminates West Alabama from the tournament with a 17-10 overall record. Valdosta State, now 16-11, will continue on to face the winner of the West Georgia versus North Alabama game on Friday.
"It's a disappointing loss," said UWA head coach Mark Downey.
"We surrendered our game plan in the second half. When Valdosta State makes shots they are hard to guard, and our game plan was to protect our paint; we just didn't do that. They stuck to their game plan and beat us at our own game."
The Tigers totaled 11 turnovers in the game, with nine in the first half. VSU scored 11 points off of turnovers, as well as 54 percent from the 3-point arc, to take a 41-38 lead at halftime.
In the second half, the Blazers moved inside the perimeter where they were 11-of-12. The Tigers fell from shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half to 37 percent in the second.
Jeremy McKay led the Blazers with 22 points, followed by Larry Stone with 20. Stone was 4-of-5 from the 3-point line in the first half.
Senior first team All-GSC selection, Desmond Raymond led the Tigers with 19 points. Jarell Byrd, a second team all-conference member, finished with 13, scoring 11 in the first half.
West Alabama, who currently sits fifth in the NCAA South Region, will await the final region rankings on Sunday night to decide its fate in the post season.
"Now we have to just sit and wait," said Downey. "Maybe the cards will fall right and we can still get into the NCAA tournament. Before we looked at the region rankings hoping certain teams would lose, but now we are pulling for the higher seeds to win so we can get in. We did a lot of good things this year and if we deserve to be there, we'll be there."