ASU women's basketball coach Robert Skinner and the Lady Rams may not have won a game this year, but have been close in almost every one.
ALBANY - Riding a five-game losing streak to open the season, Albany State’s women played some of their best basketball Monday.
That made it all the more frustrating for the Lady Rams, who had to endure yet another tough loss in the first month of the season, 66-64, to South Georgia rival Valdosta State.
After a 68-57 loss to the Lady Blazers to open the season, Albany State led for much of the second half before going scoreless for 3:10 in the final five minutes. Still, there were no moral victories afterward.
“We got some things accomplished (Monday) that we hadn’t been accomplishing, but at the same time we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” ASU women’s head coach Robert Skinner said. “A two-point loss is still a loss.”
The Lady Rams (0-6) took a 60-56 lead when Symone Wilkerson drained a 3-pointer with 4:44 left. ASU then went cold from the field, while the Lady Blazers (6-2) took off on a 8-0 run that began with former Sherwood and Worth County star Courtney Mitchell’s lay-in.
When VSU’s Sczeny Hartry hit her third three of the night with 1:47 to play, the Lady Blazers had taken a 64-60 lead.
“Finally we started getting into a rhythm at the end of the (second) half,” said Mitchell, a senior at VSU who scored nine points and added nine boards in 32 minutes.
“I think we got back on the boards in the second half and got some second-opportunity shots.”
The Lady Rams cut it to 64-62 with 1:34 left on April Thomas’ driving layup but committed a key turnover with 30 seconds to play with a chance to tie the game. ASU went 3-for-9 at the free throw line in the final seven minutes. The Lady Rams led by as many as nine points in the first half before two Lady Blazer runs tied the score at 34-34 at halftime.
“We had too many mental errors,” said ASU sophomore Kourtney Alexander, who scored a team-high 17 points in just 21 minutes, and went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. “We didn’t get as many good looks as we wanted. In the end, they just outhustled us.”
Valdosta’s Hartry led all scorers with 18 points and led the Lady Blazers back from a first-half deficit with the 3-ball. VSU shot 5-for-9 from beyond the arc in the first half, but ASU cut that out in the final 20 minutes, holding the Lady Blazers to just 1-for-11 in 3-point shooting. ASU had better shooting percentages for the game from the floor, the free throw line, and from 3-point range, but was outrebounded 43-32.
“I’m sure they’re getting down,” Skinner said of another devastating loss. “I’m getting down. (In the previous) six games we were in at least five of the games at the end.”
Alexander, though, said she won’t let a few early season losses demoralize the team.
“We can’t do that,” she said. “We’ve got to keep our heads up and stay positive. It’s just the beginning of the season.”
The Lady Rams had four players score in double figures, led by Alexander’s 17, Breanna Fields’ 12 points and six boards, Wilkerson’s 10 points and four steals and Kedeemya Cooper’s 10 points and three steals. VSU got 15 points and 14 rebounds from Brittany Ferguson and 11 points from Jordan Waugh.
The Lady Rams return to the court Thursday back on the road in Orangeburg, S.C. at Claflin University before traveling to Tuskegee Saturday.
ASU MEN 71, BREWTON PARKER 59:Albany State’s Rams won their second game in a row to improve to 2-2 on Monday, but coach Chris Cameron left the game with mixed feelings.
“We played in spurts as well as we can play,’’ he said. “But we played in spurts where we were terrible.’’
Cameron said he was pleased with the way his offense shot the ball (50 percent for the night) and the way his team took control of the game early, but the breakdowns bothered him.
“We turned the ball over 20 times against a team that didn’t even press us,’’ he said.
“We didn’t take the time and have the patience to get it done.’’
Cameron said he was disappointed in his defense, which started the game on fire but let up just before halftime, and then gave up too much in the second half.
“They had six points with about eight minutes left in the half,’’ he said. “And they ended up with 19 points at halftime.’’
ASU led 37-19 at halftime.
“They scored 39 points in the second half,’’ said Cameron, who insisted his defense has to improve. “That’s the part I’m disappointed in.
“We want to be one of the best defenses in the conference. (Monday night) we had a chance to move in that direction, and didn’t do it.’’
The Rams were led by Jaren Harris, who scored 17 points, Rashard Lofton (12 points), and Demarcus Blunt (10 points).