The Wolves (5-6, 2-1 GSC) will play host to Valdosta State (9-3, 1-3) tonight at 7:30 p.m., and UWG coach Michael Cooney is hopeful that the sixth-man effect will be in full force against the high-octane Blazers for the ‘Paint it Blue’ contest.
“Well, that’s what we need. The crowd lifts our team. We need all the help we can get. Our team plays harder than you know what, but we’re going to need any advantages that we can create [Thursday] night in there with our crowd. We need it,” Cooney said.
Though the Blazers are just 1-3 in league play, that record is a bit deceiving. Of VSU’s three losses, they’ve come by a combined nine points to Shorter, North Alabama and Alabama-Huntsville, including a two-point loss to the No. 3 Chargers.
Ignited by the No. 1 scoring offense (84.9 ppg) in the GSC, all five of the Blazers’ starters average double figures, led by 6-foot-7 senior forward and Wichita State transfer James Anacreon (15.8 ppg).
Cooney said you’ve got to play to the buzzer against the Blazers, where no lead is safe.
“That’s the thing. They always are very offensive-minded and they always have guys that can score the ball. We’re going to have to guard. But the huge thing for us [Thursday] night is we’ve really got to do a great job limiting them to just one shot. If they’re getting a bunch of second-chance opportunities, we’re really in trouble,” Cooney said.
On the other end of the floor, VSU leads the league in blocked shots at 8.0 per game, as its total of 96 on the season is well above the next in line, Alabama-Huntsville, with 41.
Senior Josh Sparks, a lean, 6-9 forward, leads that department, averaging 3.75 blocks per game to go along with his 12.3 points and 9.3 rebounds.
The Wolves have gotten solid play from their newcomer in the frontcourt this year, junior transfer Sean Boston, who is averaging 12.4 points and a team-best 7.5 rebounds. Boston poured in a career-high 22 points in the Wolves’ 70-61 road win at West Alabama on Saturday night and is joined in double figures offensively by senior point guard Quincy Hill, who is posting a team-high 12.8 points per game this year.
Tonight’s contest marks the first of two GSC home games over the next three days, as UWG plays host to West Florida (7-5, 2-2) on Saturday at 4 p.m. And while the two games are crucial with three of the Wolves’ next four on the road following Saturday, Cooney said his ball club has to focus on one game at a time at this point in the season.
“The most important game is this game Thursday night. You know, we have not talked to our team about West Florida at all, other than we’ve said that we’ve got to be ready to play two games this week,” Cooney said. “We’re just going to have to focus on one game at a time, one team at a time. I do like the improvement that we made against West Alabama, but it’s a whole different animal now. We really are going to have to put forth a huge effort [Thursday] night.”