Argos finish weekend challenge with overtime victory over Fort Valley State

By Morgan Givens
Staff writer

The University of West Florida men’s basketball team emerged undefeated from the GSC-SIAC Crossover Challenge this weekend, but not without outlasting Fort Valley State in a 75-68 overtime victory.

UWF (2-0) hosted Fort Valley State (1-3) as well as Valdosta State and Albany State in the annual Gulf Coast Conference-Southern Intercollegiate Conference Crossover this weekend. On Saturday, UWF defeated Albany State 77-68. Their opponent on Sunday was the Wildcats of FVSU.

After a slow start, the Argos rallied to a 23-14 lead after a 14-6 scoring run with the help of junior point guard Rashaan Benson, who dropped four points. UWF could not hold that momentum, however, with FVSU cutting into the Argo’s lead late in the first half. Junior Wildcat point guard Jaylon McMillan scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half, and his team was only trailing 34-30 at halftime.

Unlike the first half, the first part of the second half was strong for the Argos, who regained a 51-41 lead. The rally was possible help of Benson and junior forward Henri Ventoneimi, who scored 8 points to build that lead.

A strong defensive performance also fortified UWF’s lead, allowing FVSU to score only one field goal in seven minutes.

Just like the first half, however, momentum could not be held by the Argos. FVSU exploded late in the second half to constantly chip at the Argos lead with smart fouling and an offensive performance that caught UWF off guard. A missed free throw from UWF made the score 64-62, and with 1.6 seconds left, Wildcats’ senior forward Walter Foster tipped in a goal to tie the game and take it into overtime.

The close-game antics ended with regulation, as UWF took full control on both sides of the court in overtime. The Argos allowed FVSU to only score 4 points in overtime and Foster contributed 4 points and four rebounds in overtime as his team pulled out the 75-68 victory.

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DJ Thorpe icing the game with a pair of free throws in overtime. The Argos limited the Wildcats to only four points in OT and were able to win 75-68 and attain a 2-0 record to start the season. (Photo by Morgan Givens)

Although Tucker managed to get 11 boards, the UWF struggled in the rebounding game, only accumulating 33 to FVSU’s 48.  On the shooting from the field statistic, however, the Argos had the advantage, making 46.3 percent of their field goals compared the Wildcat’s 34.9 percent.

Free throws proved to be crucial in the game, especially in FVSU’s comeback, making 17 of 24. The Argos struggled from the line, making only 23 of 36. Head coach Jeff Burkhamer emphasized on working on crucial mistakes for the season ahead.

“We made way too many mistakes,” Burkhamer said. “Even though were able to get stops late to pull out a win, free throw shooting and rebounding continued to be a problem. So those are things we’re going to work on this week and move forward and continue to improve.”

Benson finished with 18 points, and although his team lost a large lead, he said he and his team are confident heading into conference games with Sunday’s victory.

“It’s always good to find a way to win,” Benson said. “I’m proud of my guys for keeping their heads level and pulling out the win. The conference games are always a battle so when that time comes we can look back at games like tonight and have that confidence that we can pull it out.”

The Argos do not have many days to recuperate. The men have two games against Miles College coming up, the first at home at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 15 and the second at 6 p.m. on Nov. 18 in Fairfield, Alabama.

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