The Mocs have won three out of four SoCon games to get to 3-2 in conference play. While the loss to College of Charleston was ugly, the comeback against Appalachian State was exhilirating.
Western Carolina started 4-0 in SoCon play, but lost to Elon and to Samford this week so far. The Catamounts are now 4-2, and are tied for third in the bye race in the SoCon. They are down by half a game in the North race, behind Samford.
The Catamounts rely heavily on Trey Sumler, who is one of the favorites to win SoCon Player of the Year. He is averaging 17.6 points per contest. He is making 39.2% of his threes on the season. He is making 44.1% of his shots overall. He also leads the team in assists, with 3.5 per contest. He also leads the team in steals with 2.1 per game. Sumler is also second on the team in rebounds with 4.4 boards per contest. He has committed 3.5 turnovers per game, but the Catamounts are not a team that commits a lot of turnovers.
Tawaski King is averaging 10.8 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game. King is a 6-8 junior, and really came alive last year in the SoCon Tournament. That has carried over to this year. King is a solid performer. He is shooting 54.3% from the floor so far this year. He is a really solid performer, and a nice inside option for the Catamounts to counter Sumler's excellent outside play.
Tom Tankelewicz was suspended indefinitely earlier this week for academics. That's part of Western Carolina lost to Elon. He was back against Samford. He is averaging 9.7 points per game. He is making 36.9% of hit three points shots in this one. He is making 2.5 threes per game. Tankelewicz may be one of the keys in this game.
Brandon Boggs is scoring 8.5 points per game. However, he is shooting just 33.3% from the floor. He is taking the second most shots on the team behind only Sumler, yet he is making only tied for the third most shots on the team, behind King, Sumler, and tied with Tankelewicz for made shots. His struggles from the floor have been hurting this team. He is making just 22.4% from three point range.
James Sinclair and Preston Ross are the other two Catamounts players getting significant minutes. Sinclair is 6-3, but has 4.4 rebounds and 7.6 points per game. Ross is averaging 7.3 points per game and shooting 52.3% from the floor.
Dontay Hampton broke a hand at the end of the Appalachian State, and it is unknown about his availability in this one. This after he scored a career high 22 against the Mountaineers. (Not related to the Western Carolina game, but seriously- Hampton could do a career highlights video of just his performances against Appalachian State, and have a pretty good collection of highlights.) If he is unable to go, it puts a little extra pressure on Farad Cobb. That being said Cobb has been responding well to pressure, and using Alex Bran as the back-up point guard is not exactly deadly. He played some solid offense earlier this year, even if there may be some deficiencies in other areas of his game.
Z Mason and Drazen Zlovaric should be very good shooting from the floor in this one. They match up well with the Catamounts big men. One of them will need to try to take King out of his offense, and turn this team into Trey Sumler. Sumler can certainly carry the team. Cobb will have to do his best to shut him down. Tankelewicz is a critical player as well, and Gee McGhee and Rico White will be trying to slow him down.
LEAD PIPE LOCK PREDICTIONS THAT ARE SURE TO GO WRONG:
--Tankelewicz will make a minimum of four threes. He is going to do a lot to keep the Catamounts in this one.
--The Mocs will play a little bit more full court trapping pressure defense. That's the defense that really helped the Mocs get back into it against Appalachian State. The Catamounts will struggle a bit with it, too.
--The emotions of Thursday's night come from behind combined with the news of Hampton's injury is bound to lead to a bit of a letdown emotionally early in this one for the Mocs.
--Sumler is going to score plenty of points against the Mocs.
--The Mocs will win the rebounding battle over the smaller Catamounts.
--Western Carolina 74, Mocs 70. The Mocs defense is simply not going to be able to slow down Tankelewicz and Sumler. They are very good shooters. The Mocs will slow down King, but that's hardly enough. Z Mason will have a nice game, but this time, the Mocs will dig themselves into a hole that they can't quite get out of.