The Mocs head home, having won back-to-back road games against The Citadel and Furman and
getting to 2-0 in the SoCon. It is only the second time they have gone 2-0 on a road trip this century. Samford lost to Wofford at home and then lost a two point game at Georgia Southern and are sitting 0-2 in SoCon play. The Bulldogs desperately need to get a conference win or risk falling out of the bye race. As a team that was expected to be a darkhorse for the SoCon title preseason, that is shocking. The Mocs are trying to prove that they belong in the SoCon race by winning their conference home opener.
The best match-up in this game is Tim Williams vs. Z Mason. Both were considered preseason Player of the Year candidates. While Williams has been very good, to the tune of 17.6 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 62.4% from the floor, Mason has been even better in recent weeks, averaging 19.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Williams is 6-8 and Mason is only 6-6, but Mason has been so dominant in the paint, that the size difference does not matter. This will be one of the most compelling one on one match-ups in the SoCon all year long. This should be tremendously fun.
The Mocs may have some real trouble guarding Tyler Hood inside. He's averaging 8.8 points per game and 3.4 rebounds. At 6-6, he will be a tough handle for anyone else to guard. Can Lance Stokes or Casey Jones handle Hood? It's going to be a significant challenge. At 6-10, Michael Bradley will have a homecoming of sorts. He's from Chattanooga, and playing just over twelve minutes per game. He is second on the team in rebounding with four per game, but is averaging just 2.9 points. However, he played just five minutes in the last four games combined. That was all against Georgia Southern, when he came up with two points and no rebounds.
Raijon Kelly is 6-4. He's averaging 9.8 points per game, with 2.9 assists per contest. Kelly is not a good three point shooter, shooting 28.6% from long distance. But he is one of the better driving guards in the SoCon, which can cause problems for the Mocs. Then again, they contained Stephen Croone of Furman last Saturday, and he is the best driving guard in the league.
Isaiah Williams has been a revelation for the Bulldogs as a freshman. He is 6-1, and has made 22 threes on the year on 37.6% shooting. He is averaging 12.0 points per game and 3.3 assists. In two SoCon games, he's averaged 10.5 points and 3.5 assists per game, shooting 22.2% from three point range. Connor Miller is shooting 42.2% from three point range and has made 27 threes. He's only averaging 6.6 points per game, but he is the Bulldogs best three point shooter.
Russell Wilson actually leads the team in assists with 3.4 per game and only 3.7 points per game. He's only played 21 minutes in two SoCon games, but has come up with three assists in each game and two points in each contest.
This is a team that used to pride themselves on defense. Not anymore. They are not a good defensive team this year. The offense has been relatively effective, making 52.2% of their two point shots (thanks largely to Tim Williams). Nearly 58% of their points come from two point range, which ranks 37th in the country. Only 19% of their points come from the free throw line, which is 307th in the country. They score twos, but don't get fouled. The Mocs have shown their conditioning as of late, with Z Mason playing a ton of minutes. If he is not in foul trouble, he should be able to stay on the floor for most of this one. On the other hand, the Samford defense has been bad. Opponents are shooting 54.7% from two point range, which ranks 327th in the country.
The Bulldogs rank 310th in the country in OR% and 297th in the country in DR%. They are not a good rebounding team, despite the fact that they have a little bit of height. The Mocs have recently been dominating the offensive glass. That's how they overcome their weak offensive numbers- getting second chance points. That will be one of the main keys in this one. If Samford keeps the Mocs off the glass, the Mocs offense will have a tough time keeping up.
The Mocs are playing better basketball and with more confidence right now than Samford is. The Mocs can still not afford to take anyone lightly. They have to bring their best effort each and every night for them to win. They have limited margin of error. Williams against Mason is compelling. So is how Casey Jones, Rico White, Gee McGhee, Greg Pryor, Lance Stokes and Martynas Bareika perform in trying to contain the rest of the Bulldogs. My bet is that Mason takes control in this one, while Jones contributes in a big way. This will not be easy and will be a war until the end. But the Mocs eek out another one. Mocs 78, Bulldogs 71.