What a great performance by the Mocs!
I'm going to hold off on proclaiming that the Mocs have turned the corner, because this was only their second straight good game, but it is the first time heading into the game that I was asking that question and the Mocs actually won.
The Mocs came into the game as a sizable underdog, and they needed to win both games while Samford lost both games for the Mocs to get the fourth bye. I picked on the blog yesterday for the Mocs to lose and for Samford to win. So, needless to say, I was not giving the Mocs much chance heading into the weekend.
Yet, the Mocs jumped out to a 12-0 lead on their way to this win and Appalachian State survived against Samford, after trailing by eight in the closing minutes to come back and tie it, send it to overtime, eventually to double overtime, and hold on to win.
So now the Mocs head into Saturday in a very important game for Appalachian State and the Mocs. If Appalachian State wins, they get the bye. If the Mocs win and Western Carolina beats Samford, the Mocs get the bye. If the Mocs win and Samford beats Western Carolina, the Bulldogs get the bye.
They head into it with a lot of momentum. Brandon Boggs scored 21 points for the Catamounts, while Z Mason had 25 points and 14 rebounds. Rico White had 19 points, while Gee McGhee had 12.
The game was hampered badly by foul calls. There were 30 fouls called on Western Carolina and 23 fouls called on the Mocs. That means 53 total fouls were called for the game. That is an unreasonably high number. I was even frustrated with the number of fouls being called on Western Carolina, not to mention the Mocs. It was just creating a slow paced game that was choppy.
Some of that choppiness allowed Western Carolina to get back into the game. Tawaski King scored 12 points and had 12 rebounds. Trey Sumler was not good. Boggs had four fouls for much of the second half, and actually fouled out at one point, but then the refs changed who the foul was on, and Boggs scored eight points after that. He nearly brought them back after he fouled out.
The Mocs did not do a good job on the defensive glass. They allowed Western Carolina to get over 45% of the rebounds on the offensive side of the ball. I said yesterday the Mocs needed to hold them down to around 25%. They did not do that. Yet the Mocs won, in large part thanks to good shooting. They made 54.2% from the floor. That was really good shooting. The Mocs also only turned the ball over eight times. That was such a problem earlier in the year. The Mocs have really gotten that under control and that is why they have been more successful.
Z Mason needs one more solid game to all but seal 1st team All SoCon. That's my thought, anyway. He was brilliant tonight. Gee McGhee had a solid performance. He needs a big night against Appalachian State to help his case for Freshman of the Year.
Only seven guys played double digit minutes tonight. Jones, Mason, White, and McGhee all played over 30. They seemed to be energized by that much playing time. That was an encouraging sign moving forward.
The 19 point lead nearly evaporated, but Western Carolina could not get over the hump. Thanks to that, the Mocs still have a shot at the bye heading into the final day of the regular season. Given where the season started, what the expectations were preseason, and where Moc fans were a week ago (coming off a 28 point home loss to UNCG), this is an unexpected development.