Friday, January 17, 2014

Mocs 80, Mountaineers 70

The Mocs came up with their third straight road win to open SoCon play and now sit at 5-0 in conference play. They are atop the SoCon standings. They've gotten to .500 in D1 play on the year. The Mocs have won seven straight games after a 1-8 start against D1 teams.

Who saw this coming? Certainly not me.

Z Mason continues his masterful play. He scored 22 points with 12 rebounds and six blocks. Quite simply, he has been the best player on the floor in each SoCon game so far. Casey Jones continued his good play, with 14 points and eleven rebounds. Martynas Bareika had 16 points, with four threes, and some nice drives to the basket to get some points as well. Rico White scored 13 including 8 of 9 from the free throw line.

The Mountaineers have not won a D1 game this year, so it may seem like there is not much to learn from this. That's not quite true. The Mocs won in Boone, a place where they have really struggled to win. There was no energy early in the game from anybody. The Mocs did not come ready to play. They fell behind by ten early in the game, and it was a time to be genuinely nervous.

But then something happened. Bareika knocked down a three, cutting the lead to 15-8, a timeout came just seconds later and Bareika came to the sideline yelling and saying, "It's time to wake up!" That was the turning point of the game. The Mocs started playing much better after that, and though they were up eleven at the half and only won by ten, they also were never SERIOUSLY threatened in the second half. The game was never out of reach for the Mountaineers, but it was also never really in doubt. That moment with Bareika was the turning point. They outscored Appalachian State 35-14 after that in the first half to go from down ten to up eleven.

The Mocs won the battle on the boards in this one. Gee McGhee seems to have learned his role on this team. I'm really impressed with his maturation over the last few weeks.

The Mocs have announced that they will be in the bye race until the very end with this win. There are seven teams competing for five bye spots. Six of them have one loss or less in SoCon play. Wofford has two. The Mocs are not a lock for a bye by any means. They need to get anywhere from three to five more SoCon wins to get a bye. To win the conference in the regular season, they probably need to win anywhere from seven to nine more SoCon games. I'm not sure this team is capable of winning the regular season title. But they are making this a fun ride at this point. Playing Wofford again on Saturday will be a war. That's going to be very tough. A win there would really announce to the SoCon that the Mocs are there until the end and a threat in the SoCon.

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