The University of West Georgia men's basketball team ran into a buzzsaw versus visiting No. 9 Valdosta State on Thursday, suffering a 106-77 loss to its in-state Gulf South Conference rival at The Coliseum.
Jumping out to an early 5-0 lead, the Wolves (11-12, 6-10 GSC) hung tight with the league-leading Blazers (22-2, 15-1) in the early stages of the contest.
But with the ballgame tied 17-all at the 13:02 mark, VSU turned up the pressure and put the home team behind the 8-ball by going on a quick 10-0 run. Despite UWG shooting 46 percent from the field throughout the first half, its arch-rival topped it by shooting a red-hot 66 percent to take a 59-44 lead into halftime.
While the Wolves had to contend with a barrage of Blazer 3s in the first half, it was 6-foot-11 forward Justin McBride in the paint in the second half. He made a major impact in limited time, finishing with 18 points and five rebounds in just 11 minutes of action.
The Wolves did get a 28-point, 11-rebound double-double effort from junior guard Paul Turner, but it wasn't enough to turn the tide of the 29-point decision.
UWG head coach Michael Cooney cited a little late-season fatigue as what contributed to Thursday's loss. But he first gave credit to the Blazers, who have now won 15 straight ballgames.
"They're 22-2 for a reason. They're really, really good, so hats of to Valdosta," Cooney said. "As the game went on with us, I just saw a team that looked fatigued. I just don't think we had enough in the gas tank to keep up with them. We weren't efficient enough on both ends to handle their pace and we didn't grind the ball offensively like we needed to."
The veteran coach also said that coming off a long road trip to Delta State and Mississippi College last week didn't do his Wolves any favors.
"This is two years in a row where we've had our hardest trip of the year and then come home to play Valdosta on Thursday night. There won't be a third time," Cooney said. "It's just so difficult to inspire them emotionally for this game after that trip. It takes you two to three days to get your legs back and now, hey, you're playing your biggest rival. What your guys want to do is play well, so I'm disappointed for them because I know that they wanted to play a much better game than they did."
Cooney and his Wolves will have to shake off the VSU loss quickly as they will welcome yet another top-25 conference foe on Saturday when they host No. 17 West Florida at 4 p.m.
"We dug a hole for ourselves (Thursday), so now we have to get up and get ready for the next one," Cooney said. "We just have to batten down the hatches in here Saturday and put up another tremendous fight against a great West Florida team."