Saturday, January 25, 2014

SoCon Saturday- 1/25/14

Wofford 76, Furman 52
Key Stat: Cochran and Collins combined 17 of 29 from the floor. Wow. Right now, these two guys can't miss. If these two are making 58.6% of their shots, Wofford is going to be almost impossible to beat. They seem to be doing that a lot this week, which is why the Terriers find themselves at 3-0 on the week and back in the SoCon race.

Player of the Game: Karl Cochran. Cochran made 10 of 17 by himself, scoring 22 points and collecting five rebounds. Cochran is starting to make a push for All SoCon performer. Many thought he was overrated prior to the last couple of weeks, but he has been playing so well the last couple of weeks, it is hard to ignore his stellar play.

What It All Means: Wofford is halfway through their SoCon schedule and sits at 5-3. They are positioning themselves well for getting a bye in the SoCon Tournament, and with the way they have played in the last six days, they have done nothing but help themselves. They have gone from 2-3 to 5-3 this week, and have looked like a real, live SoCon contender in the process. This team is going to be a tough out the rest of the way. For Furman, this was the game that they have been avoiding. They have avoided really big blowouts. But they couldn't in this one. Now they have a home date with Samford and a road trip to Chattanooga next week. At 1-6, they are real trouble in the SoCon. The bye is all but gone from reach, and it's time to start just trying to get in the best position possible. Again, I worry that Niko Medved might be losing his team. A nice showing next week is critical to keeping them focused.

Davidson 82, Georgia Southern 52

Key Stat: Wildcats 46 rebounds, Eagles 26. The Eagles are undersized and don't have great big men. That was always going to be a problem in trying to contain DeMon Brooks and the Wildcats. Davidson got 14 offensive rebounds. The Eagles came up with just 13 defensive rebounds. That's not good. The Wildcats shot over 50% from the floor, and rebounded more than half their misses. That's how you blowout a team.

Player of the Game: Brian Sullivan. Sullivan and Brooks both got 21 points. Sullivan had five rebounds and three assists. He also made 4 of 9 from three point range. That was the difference in the game here. Plus, it's always nice to break up the monotony of picking Brooks a little bit.

What It All Means: Georgia Southern may not be one of the upper crust of SoCon teams. I thought that they might be in the mix for a bye, and they are not out of that mix by any means, but they have looked outmatched in their last three games against Appalachian State, Wofford and now Davidson. This is a struggling team right now. They have great guard play, but until they get more from the paint (Eric Ferguson will be back next year), they are going to struggle. Davidson has decided that they are mad since losing to Elon at home. They have run off three straight wins, two on the road against UNCG and Western Carolina. Now they have hammered Georgia Southern at home. Next Thursday, they take on Chattanooga at home. It is the only match-up of the year for the two teams that are currently the top two in the SoCon. The Wildcats look like they are ready for that one.

Chattanooga 77, UNCG 67

Key Stat: UNCG 11 of 19 from the free throw line. Yes, the Mocs got to the free throw line 33 times and that is almost as important as this stat. But the Spartans only converted 57.9% of their free throws on the night. You've got to do better than that to win a road conference game against a good team. 

Player of the Game: Casey Jones. Z Mason gets a lot of the press for the Mocs. Rico White has gotten a lot of good pub since the Mocs are now 10-0 with him and Mason both healthy. Gee McGhee had the SportsCenter number one play of the night and was second in Freshman of the Year voting a year ago. Jones gets forgotten. But he deserves to be on some All SoCon team based on his play so far this year. Tonight, he had 22 points, four rebounds, three assists and five steals. That's filling up the stat sheet. It's kind of been what he's been doing for the last few weeks. He really seems to be fitting into the Chaos system perfectly.

What It All Means: The Spartans now have lost three straight games and are 3-4 in SoCon play. They have a big week of home games coming up. They host Appalachian State and Georgia Southern this week and the Spartans really need to win both to keep their bye hopes going. That's two other teams in the bye race, and the Spartans can't afford to let the losses keep piling up. It's a Jekyll and Hyde team that played great for the first ten minutes of the second half, but was really mediocre the rest of the night. The Mocs played a great first twenty minutes and an excellent last five minutes. They seemed to lose focus a bit at the beginning of the second half and that cost them. This team's margins are small- they can't afford to let the foot off the gas even for a minute. But they did enough to win, and are now 8-0 in SoCon play. A trip to Davidson looms next week in a huge game. The game at home against Furman is critical too, though. The ten game winning streak is one short of the eleven game streak the Mocs had in 1996-97.

Samford 62, Elon 59

Key Stat: Phoenix 39.2% from the floor. The eFG% is significantly better for the Phoenix, because they made ten threes. It actually goes all the up to 49%. But the Phoenix shooting did them in tonight, particularly since the Bulldogs shot over 52% from the floor. The Bulldogs defense has been porous for much of the year, but tonight, they played one of their better games.

Player of the Game: Tim Williams. Williams continues to step up for the Bulldogs. What a great week it was for Williams. He scored 19 points and collected ten rebounds. He had three assists, one steal and two blocks. He made 7 of 10 from the floor and 5 of 6 from the free throw line. Play like that and the Bulldogs will keep on winning.

What It All Means: It was a bit of a lost opportunity weekend for Elon. In a lot of ways, they let the Mocs loss beat them twice. They found themselves down seven at the half, and that was just a little bit too much to overcome. They had two threes in the final ten seconds with a chance to tie up the game, but couldn't get it done. Now, Elon is 3-3 and in fifth place in the SoCon. That means that they are up just one half game on UNCG and Samford for the the last bye spot. They're up one full game on Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. Hosting Western Carolina next Thursday becomes an absolutely critical game for the Phoenix. The Bulldogs have muscled their way back into the bye race thanks to winning two this weekend. They go to Furman and Wofford next week. If they somehow win both of those, they can actually be in position to get a bye in the SoCon Tournament. Considering that they were 0-3 in SoCon play, that's quite a turnaround in just a few weeks. This team is very dangerous when Williams, Tyler Hood and Raijon Kelly are playing as well as they are right now. Is this a second straight late season surge from the Bulldogs?

Western Carolina 78, The Citadel 60

Key Stat:  Bulldogs 37.0% eFG. The Catamounts entered the game as the best defensive team in the league per Pomeroy. They probably are not going to be any different after this one. The Bulldogs were absolutely dreadful from the floor. They could not make any shots. Can't win if you don't make shots.

Player of the Game: Justin Browning. In a weird night for the Catamounts, Browning scored ten points, has seven rebounds and three steals. Browning was an important force in this one for the Catamounts. In a game where Trey Sumler scored only ten points, Browning scored his ten on 5 of 8 shooting off the bench.

What It All Means: Western Carolina came in and bounced back from the loss to Davidson and easily handled the Bulldogs. They now find themselves third in the SoCon, two and a half games behind Chattanooga and one full game behind Davidson for second. The Catamounts go to Elon next Thursday in a key match-up in the whole bye race and seeding race. The Catamounts needed to end their two game losing streak, and they did. The Bulldogs are in big trouble. What's the most likely win left on the schedule? At Furman? At home against Georgia Southern? Wofford? Samford? I don't know. This team looks like a team that may not win a SoCon game. They are playing worse and worse now. After showing some real signs of life early in SoCon play, things are bad right now. Can they win a SoCon game? I'm not sure.

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