Oh! That was so close. The Mocs were so close to pulling off an upset that would validate the Mocs as a team right in the thick of the SoCon bye race.
In the end, the one major thing holding the Mocs back is something that has not been a problem for a while. The Mocs could not make free throws. They made 38% of their free throws going 6 of 16 from the line. If they had made a mere 63%, they would have made 10 of 16 and scored four more points. That may have just been enough to win the game.
There was so much good in this game. The Mocs had more assists than the Cougars while committing fewer turnovers. They committed just seven turnovers, while forcing the Cougars into nine. The nine turnovers was not enough to win, but the Mocs held onto the ball very well. This continues to establish why the Mocs are such an improved right now- they protect the ball so much better than they did earlier in the year.
The Mocs pressure defense did not work as well as it did against The Citadel. The Bulldogs turned the ball over much more, but it still seemed to energize and focus the Mocs. I think, despite the lack of turnovers, that the Mocs pressure still worked in that it helped the Mocs to start off a little bit better and maintain their intensity throughout.
Z Mason scored 27 points and had six rebounds. Mason was absolutely brilliant. On top of that, Drazen Zlovaric scored 15 points. Zlovaric and Mason were both very good. In fact, Zlovaric has been getting better each and every game recently. He was struggling so much earlier in the year, but he has come along. He is now playing well enough to really make a difference and help the Mocs win games consistently. Throw in that Mason is playing at a full on All SoCon level and it is easy to start seeing that the Mocs inside game is really becoming a solid force.
Gee McGhee was so good. I really hurt for him tonight, because he made just 3 of 9 from the free throw line. He has to be hurting. But, he should not hang his head too long. McGhee scored 20 points on the game. He also came up with eight rebounds, which was huge. The Mocs needed that performance tonight, because Rico White really struggled from the floor. He shot 2 of 13 from the floor. He did come up with six assists which lead the Mocs. So White didn't have an awful game overall, but his 2 of 13 shooting was not the best.
Think about it- in a game where the Mocs shot 38% from the free throw line, were outrebounded overall (though I maintain that these two teams are roughly equal rebounding and are the two best rebounding teams in the SoCon), White shot 2 of 13 from the field, while their opponent had just nine turnovers, and made 16 of 21 free throws, all against the team with the second best record in the SoCon in College of Charleston, the Mocs STILL lost by just three points. Yes, this game hurts. But it also shows how far this team has come. If this game was played a month ago, they get beat by 20 points. Instead, they were able to stay in the game until the last moment and nearly pull off the shocking upset. That's real progress.
In reality, Monday night's game at home against Samford is huge. The Mocs are two games behind the current fourth seeded Bulldogs right now. A win would pull them within one game of Samford, and get them right into the bye race. Yes, that game is huge. The Mocs will need to put this one behind them quickly and move forward fast. Next week's games (home games against Samford and Furman and a trip to Wofford) have potential to make or break the Mocs season. This is it. Time to move forward.