The University of West Georgia women's basketball team faced an uphill climb the entire evening against Gulf South Conference rival Valdosta State on Thursday at The Coliseum, and it nearly completed the comeback before falling just short in a 70-67 setback.
Had you told UWG head coach Scott Groninger that Lady Blazer star forward Madi Mitchell would be held to one point on 0-of-2 shooting and VSU (17-7, 11-5 GSC) would have double-digit turnovers in the first half, he would have gladly taken that.
But the area that proved to be most troublesome dealt with the deep ball. The Lady Blazers shot a blistering 7-of-12 (58 percent) from 3-point range, while the Wolves (13-10, 9-7) were 0-for-6 from downtown in the first half, marking a 21-point differential from beyond the arc through 20 minutes of play.
The other major factor was the hot hand of Lady Blazer reserve forward Maddy Corazza, who entered the night averaging 5.0 points per game and only 18.7 minutes an outing, yet she posted 10 points on a 5-of-7 mid-range shooting clip with five rebounds in 11 minutes of court time in the opening half. She finished with 15 points and seven boards in 19 minutes overall.
"She always seems to play well against us, but that might be her high-point game," Groninger said.
VSU stretched its 11-point halftime lead to 16 early in the third, but the Wolves clawed back by heating up and knocking down 5-of-7 from beyond the arc in the period, the last of which came off the hand of Aysha Harris just before the buzzer to pull the home squad within 62-55 heading into the final 10 minutes of action.
An old-fashioned, three-point play by Harris made it a 68-65 game with 2:59 left, but UWG would get no closer as the Lady Blazers made a living at the free-throw line in the second half.
Despite going nearly eight minutes and 30 seconds in between field goals from the midway mark of the third quarter through the first stretch of fourth quarter, VSU managed to maintain its lead due to a 9-of-11 mark from the free-throw line during that span, including several calls that Groninger did not agree with where his post players were in good position against Mitchell, who went 8-of-11 from the charity stripe for the majority of her 12 points. As a team, VSU shot 23 free throws after the break.
Kenya Samone' Dixon led the Lady Blazers with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while UWG was paced by Kayla Carter with 15 points, Aysha Harris and Kilah Nixon with 14 points apiece and A'Kia Harris with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Wolves don't have much time to dwell on Thursday's setback, as they turn around and host West Florida (15-8, 10-6) in another pivotal matchup on Saturday at 2 p.m.
"It'll be good to get our troops back. We'll have nine in uniform and that will be a real positive factor for us," said Groninger, who played with only seven players once again on Thursday due to injury.