The Mocs won one of their biggest regular season games of the year in Cullowhee and did it in very dramatic fashion. Martynas Bareika drained three in the final ten seconds of regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime. Then, when down four with 35 seconds left in overtime, Rico White drained a three, the Mocs forced a jump ball and gained possession, and then Casey Jones made a shot to give the Mocs the lead.
It was an incredible performance. Thanks to Wofford's upset at Elon, the Mocs are now in a three way tie for second in the SoCon. They hold the tiebreaker over Elon (beat them once head-to-head) and Wofford (beat them twice head-to-head). That means that if the Mocs beat Appalachian State, they will finish second in the SoCon. If Wofford (against UNCG) or Elon (against Davidson) lose on Saturday and the Mocs lose, then the Mocs would still clinch the three seed. If both Wofford and Elon win and the Mocs lose, then the Mocs will get the four seed. If all three lose, the Mocs will clinch the second seed. There is no way for Western Carolina to get anyting except for the five seed.
What is interesting as we look at the season as a whole is that the Mocs are now 5-1 against teams that will receive a bye in the SoCon Tournament. They are a mere 6-3 against teams not getting a bye, but the Mocs have beaten the best teams in the SoCon consistently. Davidson is just 4-1 at this point against teams receiving a bye. If they beat Elon, they will finish up 5-1, which would match the Mocs mark. They are the two best teams against teams that will receive a bye in the SoCon Tournament.
The Mocs brought the energy tonight. There was a play in the second half where Western Carolina was passing it ahead for a breakaway basket. It should have been an easy two. Bareika batted the ball away out of bounds. It is plays like that which make such a huge difference in games like this. Lance Stokes consistently made plays just like throughout the ball game. He tipped the ball out on numerous rebounds. With seven points and five assists, he did a lot of really important things. Gee McGhee with 15 points and six rebounds continued to show a recognition of his role on this team. Casey Jones had plays run for him tonight, and he came up huge with 19 points and seven rebounds. Z Mason fouled out of the game and had 16 points and six rebounds.
The Mocs also got to the free throw line 17 more times than the Catamounts and made fourteen more free throws. That was one of the main differences in this game and one of the ways the Mocs have continually come up with wins in SoCon play.
The Mocs really need to beat Appalachian State and wrap up that two seed on Saturday night. It will be Z Mason's Senior Night, so it should be a good crowd at McKenzie watching the Mocs. It is a huge game for Chattanooga.
How will the Mocs fare in Asheville? That's still too be determined. But with a two or three seed, the Mocs will put themselves in the best position possible to succeed there. Does anyone realize how long it has been since the Mocs have been to the semifinals away from Chattanooga? That's since 2007. I'm really hoping the Mocs can get that far this year. That would be a major step for the program. Getting to the NCAA Tournament would be huge as well, obviously.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's beat Appalachian State on Saturday night and get that two seed.