By Jim O'Hara
ROME -- Despite a 30-point outburst by Walter Hill and a 24-point outing by Brandon Pullman, the Shorter Hawks were unable to overcome Valdosta State Saturday at the Winthrop-King Centre when the visiting Blazers used some pinpoint shooting to claim a 97-89 Gulf South Conference win.
The loss snapped Shorter's two-game conference win streak and gives the Hawks a 14-7 overall record and an 8-5 GSC slate heading into a pair of Gulf South road tests next week at Delta State on Feb. 14 and at Christian Brothers on Feb. 16.
After the two teams traded leads throughout most of the first half, the Blazers – Valdosta (10-10, 5-7) set the tone for the game hitting 55 percent of their shots from the floor – grabbed a 38-35 lead at the half.
The Hawks, however, managed to cut the gap to two, 42-40, with 17:31 left to play when Hill converted a pair of free throws. That, however, was as close as Shorter would get the rest of the way as Valdosta outscored Shorter 15-5 over the next three minutes, then extended its lead to 11 when Josh Sparks scored on a layup with 10 minutes left.
The Blazers gradually added to their advantage building a 16-point edge, the largest of the game, when David Murray connected with a three-pointer with 4:45 to go. Shorter was able to pull to within six, 89-83, when Hill nailed a trey with 44 seconds remaining but the Blazers closed the game and the win out eight of their final foul shots.
Murray led the Blazers, who wound up converting 57 percent of their shots and seven of their eight three-point attempts in the final 20 minutes, scoring 25 points, while four other teammates finished in double digits – Patrick Diop had 19, James Anacreon added 18, Shaquille Harris contributed 14 and Josh Sparks had 11.
Hill's 30 points came from a 10-for-16 shooting night, including a 6-for-8 performance from beyond the three-point line, while Pullman scored 19 of his points in the second half and added eight rebounds. Dedric Ware the only other Hawk in double figures with 19 points as Shorter ended the game hitting 51 percent of its shots.