And the close calls go on.
How many of these can the Mocs pull out? They are now 6-0 in SoCon play, and five of them have been by six points or less. Hmmm...
The good news? The Mocs are, as mentioned before, 6-0 in SoCon play. They are now back to 8-8 in D1 play, which is huge. This is the first time they have been at .500 against D1 teams since beating Marshall back in early November to get to 2-2.
Remember how high I was on DeAntre Jefferson just about two weeks ago? Suddenly things are kind of falling apart for him. He didn't score and had three rebounds (all in the second half). That was not a good performance by Jefferson. He continues to puzzle since the calendar turned to 2011. Maybe he'll get back to the way he had been playing. The Mocs need him to get back to those performances. Yes, he's been shooting free throws better- but he has not been scoring from the field.
But who has stepped up? How about Ricky Taylor? It seems like Taylor has been making big play after big play in virtually every game in recent weeks. Tonight, Taylor came up with 11 rebounds, and scored 16 points. He made some big free throws and some big shots to keep the Mocs in the game. He also came up with some big rebounds. Great job by Taylor.
Chris Early poured home 17 points and had eight rebounds. That included a big five points in the final couple of minutes- a three and two free throws. He made the big shot. He needs to keep on playing at that level. He is capable of always playing at that level. The other night I questioned whether or not he was in Shulman's doghouse having played just eleven minutes. If he was in it at the start of the night, he is out of it now with this performance.
Omar Wattad did what Omar Wattad does. He scored 17 points, with five three pointers. Wattad had some excellent shots at key moments. The problem? Wattad missed two free throws in the final minute that nearly saw the Mocs collapse. The lead was five when he stepped to the line. He missed both free throws and Samford came down and scored to make it a three point game. Those misses were big by Wattad. He is supposed to be the Mocs best free throw shooter, but he has consistently missed them in the clutch, it seems like. That's an area for improvement for Wattad.
Keegan Bell had nine assists. He was in control of this game, and he played very well, even though he scored just nine points.
The Mocs committed just ten turnovers, after committing just seven the other night against The Citadel. The Mocs seem to have the turnovers under control at this moment. That's good news.
The Mocs also held Samford to just 38.8% shooting on the night. They played good defense tonight. They did not shoot well, shooting just over 32%. If they had shot a little better, this would have been a big win for the Mocs. They were outrebounded in the first half, but dominated the boards in the second half. They did not do a great job guarding Josh Bedwell, who scored 21 points, and had five three pointers. Jeffrey Merritt and Josh Davis both scored ten points, while Merritt had ten rebounds, and Davis had eight rebounds.
The most disturbing thing about this game may be that the Mocs jumped out to a 13-0 lead and then never were able to deliver a knockout punch after that. The Bulldogs took the lead several teams, but the Mocs never let them have the ball and have the lead. That was important. Every time the Bulldogs took the lead, the Mocs answered right away. But they were never able to deliver the knockout punch that I was hoping to see when the score got to be 13-0. I was hoping the Mocs would eventually come up with about a big double digit win, and I thought they might in this game with the way it started. But it wasn't to be.
But- the Mocs are 6-0 in the SoCon. They have beaten every single North team so far. They are up by two games on first place in the North, and are up by three games for the bye, which is critical. The Mocs are in very good shape right now. A very tough week lies ahead- College of Charleston on Monday, at Wofford on Thursday, at Furman on Saturday. Toughest week of the year. We'll know a lot more about where the Mocs really stand next Saturday at this time.