The Mocs are in bad need of a win over a D1 team. They need to prove that they can win against a
D1 team. They also need to defend their home court.
This the last home game for the Mocs against a D1 opponent until Dr Pepper Classic. Now, the Mocs take on Kennessaw State, who are 1-4. They played four games in four days and went 1-3 in those games at the beginning of the year, losing to Youngstown State, battling Eastern Kentucky close before falling, losing to FIU in a pretty close contest, and then beat non-D1 Warren Wilson at home in a blowout. Three days later, they played at Mississippi State and were down just four at halftime, before falling by 23.
So while the Owls are 0-4 against D1 teams, but they've been down a total of 21 points at halftime of those four games, and were down by a total of eight in the last three, trailing EKU by four and was tied with FIU, to go along with trailing Mississippi State by four. In other words, they played these teams relatively even for much of the game.
In other words, the Mocs better be careful. This is not an easy opponent for the Mocs, despite what the fanbase feels based on the name on the front of the jersey and the record.
The Mocs and Owls have played the last three years. The home team hasn't won yet.
One of the Mocs problems is that they lack real size inside. Yes, TJ Williams and Z Mason provide some size and are solid performers, but the Mocs are not a big team. The Owls have five guys at 6-8 or taller. However, two have not played this year. Willy Koussai is playing 20 minutes per game and is 6-10. He is averaging 3.8 rebounds per game and 5.6 points per contest. Andrew Osemhen is playing 15.8 minutes per game and is averaging 4.6 rebounds per game. He is only scoring 2.4 points per game, though. Bernard Morena is a freshman and 6-8. He averaged 11.7 points in the first three games, but has only scored seven total points in the last two games. He came up with 23 rebounds in the first three games (7.7 per game) and only five total since then. He played 18 minutes against Warren Wilson, but then only ten against Mississippi State, when he fouled out. Containing Morena may be one of the biggest keys to beating the Owls for the Mocs.
Delbert Love is averaging 13.6 points per game, while shooting 50% from three point range. He is averaging 2.6 assists per contest (second on the team behind Yonel Brown's 2.8). Orlando Coleman leads the Owls in rebounding with 6.8 boards per contest. He is shooting 51.2% from the floor and averaging 10.2 points per game. Coleman is a 6-5 sophomore.
Controlling Coleman, Love and Morena is probably the toughest challenge for these Mocs. Let's not forget that Radford shot over 50% from the floor against the Mocs in their lone game against a D1 team. The Owls are an above average offensive rebounding team, and are an OK defensive rebounding team. The Mocs will have their work cut out for them on the boards.
Looking at the Owls Pomeroy stats, they appear to be a very average defensive team, which is not an insult for a team that is 0-4 against D1 teams. They rank 345th out of 351 D1 teams in offensive efficiency. They rank 272nd in effective field goal percentage, including just 29.5% from three point range. They are a shocking 348th in turnover percentage. That means that they have had troubling with turnovers.
With the Mocs aggressive full court defense, they may be able to force a large chunk of turnovers against the Owls. That is the way the Mocs can win this game. Force a bunch of turnovers and hope that the Owls don't shoot quite as well as Radford. I was pleased with a lot of the Mocs defense, especially in the second half, against Montreat. They need to carry over the defensive intensity and prevent the Owls from shooting lights out.
Greg Pryor, who has one turnover on the season so far as a freshman point guard, are playing a team that has not been great at forcing turnovers this year. That again bodes well for this Mocs team. Gee McGhee is probably going to have an advantage against the Owls defensively, and Z Mason is always tough for teams to keep up with.
Can the Mocs knock down a few threes? That may be a key. I'd like to see better three point shooting from the starters. That being said, Alex Bran and Martynas Bareika have been hot from three point range and Eric Robertson has been shooting well. Casey Jones has also been aggressive. TJ Williams is a very athletic big man as well.
Don't be confused. Kennesaw State is not as bad at their record indicates. That was a very good Eastern Kentucky team that they hung around with (an Eastern Kentucky team that the Mocs will play later on in February). The Owls have a size advantage. It would help the Mocs to get Morena into foul trouble and keep him out of the game. The Mocs will force a lot of turnovers, the Owls will shoot better than they have been shooting so far this year, which means that the Owls offense will balance out. Despite the fact that the Owls have been playing good defense so far this year (holding three teams to 68 or fewer points and no team scoring more than 78), I think the Mocs defense will create enough points to be too much for the Owls shaky offense to keep up with in the end. The Mocs need a big crowd there for the only D1 home game before the end of December. Mocs 78, Owls 71.