There is no way to know the answer to this question until the game in Cullowhee has ended. But the Mocs have been plagued by this question at several different points this year. Have the Mocs turned the corner?
The last time this question was asked was just before the Wofford game less than two weeks ago. They answered that question by losed by 20 at Wofford, and then coming home and losing by 28 to UNCG. So the answer was no.
Now, following a rousing upset of Elon in the home finale, the Mocs are able to ask the question one more time. Have they turned the corner? Are they now going to be able to be a consistent team and win a game or two on this road trip? Or are they going to prove once again, that the only thing that we know for sure about the Mocs is that they will be maddeningly inconsistent?
On Thursday, the Mocs take on Western Carolina, who beat the Mocs 90-81 in Chattanooga earlier this year. In that one, Tom Tankelwicz was a dominant presence. He made seven threes and scored 21 points. He only took nine shots. He is averaging 10.1 points per game on the year and shooting 39.3% from three point range. Tankelwicz (like Chris Czerapowicz of Davidson) can light it up, and when he is shooting well, his team becomes much more difficult to beat. If Tankelwicz is not as hot as he was in the first one, that would be a big boost to the Mocs chances.
Brandon Boggs also had a huge game in the first contest in Chattanooga. He scored 19 on 9 of 11 shooting. He's averaging 10.5 points per game. He scored 26 against Coastal Carolina on Saturday. He had only averaged 6.3 points per game in the four games prior to that. So Boggs had been struggling some.
But make no mistake. The best player on the roster is Trey Sumler. He is averaging 18.1 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. He has only been held in single digits three times this whole year. He is shooting 36.2% from three point range. He is an 83.4% shooter from the free throw line, and scored 25 against Chattanooga, aided by 10 of 10 from the charity stripe. Sumler only scored 12 against Coastal Carolina and had three assists and seven turnovers. Yes, the Catamounts won by ten. It could have been much worse if Sumler had played better.
Tawaski King is a very critical player to the Catamounts. He is averaging 6.1 rebounds per game and 11.2 points per game. King does a lot of the little things like Harouna Mutombo did last year for the Catamounts. King also played very wll last year in the SoCon Tournament. He needs to go out and start getting on a roll to prepare himself for the tournament.
The Catamounts rank 2nd in the SoCon in OR%, while the Mocs rank 1st in DR%. The Mocs are 3rd in OR%, and the Catamounts are 8th in DR%. In other words, the battle on the Catamounts offensive glass will be critical to the game, and the Mocs will need to get a lot of second chance points in order to stick around in this game. The Mocs get to the free throw line more than any other team in the SoCon, while Western Carolina fouls more than any other team in the SoCon except The Citadel.
LEAD PIPE LOCK PREDICTIONS THAT ARE SURE TO GO WRONG
--The rebounding battle on the Catamounts offensive end of the floor will be one of the most important stats in this game. If the Mocs can get 75% of the defensive rebounds in this game, they will really help their chances. If it is closer to 65%, then the Catamounts will have a big edge.
--Sumler will have a much better game this time around.
--Gee McGhee will continue his current hot play, and so will Z Mason.
--Drazen Zlovaric, who has been playing better since the first Western Carolina game, will continue to play well.
--Western Carolina 78, Mocs 71. The Mocs have played better on Thursdays in general in SoCon play. They are 4-2 on Thursdays. While that may be a fluke, it happens when they have a little bit of time off between games. Of course, last week, the Mocs were blown out by UNCG on a Thursday. So, who knows if that has any bearing or not. Still, look for the Mocs to play better than they played in the Wofford and UNCG games. Look for the Mocs to make this one interesting, but for Sumler and Tankelwicz to make key shots down the stretch and come up with the win.