Furman 68, Appalachian 53
Key Stat: Appalachian State 31.1% from the floor. The Mountaineers really struggled from the floor. It was ugly. Despite the fact that they dominated the offensive glass, the Mountaineers could not convert enough shots to keep this game close.
Player of the Game: Stephen Croone. Croone scored 15 points, six assists, three steals, and two rebounds. He only made 4 of 7 from the floor, but also made 6 of 7 from the free throw line. Croone is such a special player for the Paladins.
What It All Means: For the Mountaineers, this loss is disappointing. It's not just that they lost, but that they lost by 15 points and were really non-competitive in a lot of ways. They now sit a game and a half out of the six seed and just a game up on Furman for the tenth seed. The Mountaineers have lost three in a row, and finish up at Samford and at Chattanooga. My belief that this team would be a tough out in Asheville appears to be wrong. The Paladins are pretty far back in the SoCon race for seventh, which would be a significant jump. They are down two games on Georgia Southern. They host Elon and Georgia Southern next week. However, they are just one game down on Appalachian State for ninth. They have clinched no worse than the ten seed now. That's good. I'm here to say that I think Furman wins a game in Asheville and, with the right match-up, could be a tough out for the high seed in the quarterfinals. No one wants to see a hot Croone with Kendrec Ferrara and Adonis Rwabigwi in the paint, along with Charlie Reddick starting to play better, like he is right now. That is a much better team than the ten seed that they are slated at right now.
Elon 66, Georgia Southern 61
Key Stat: Elon 10 made three pointers. The Phoenix knocked down 10 of 28 from long range. The reality for the Phoenix is that when they are knocking down threes and Lucas Troutman is playing well, they are very difficult to beat. Those threes really provided the difference. Another key was that Georgia Southern only knocked 4 of 19 from three point range. When the Eagles shoot that poorly, they aren't going to get it done too often.
Player of the Game: Lucas Troutman. Troutman scored 20 points with 6 rebounds, an assist, and four blocks. He made 9 of 15 from the floor for the game, but just 2 of 6 from the free throw line. Regardless, Troutman was the best player on the floor in this one. When he plays like that, the Phoenix are a very tough out.
What It All Means: The Phoenix are, as of this moment, tied for second with Chattanooga. They go to Furman on Monday (not as easy as it sounds) and have home dates with Wofford and Davidson to wrap up the season. This team has won seven straight, but something still seems slightly amiss to me. I'm not sure what the results next week will be for the Phoenix, but they may be in better shape than most with getting the four or five seed. Playing Davidson in the semifinals will not intimidate them, regardless of the outcome of this week's game. The Eagles did not follow up their stellar game at Chattanooga with a stellar performance here. They did not shoot well. They hung around and kept it interesting, but couldn't finish the job. The race for sixth is still very much there. They go to Furman and The Citadel this week, so that's not a terrible schedule. They are in decent position for the six seed if they win out. The Eagles are capable of beating anyone...or losing to anyone.
Western Carolina 70, The Citadel 52
Key Stat: Bulldogs 31.5% from the floor. The Bulldogs did not make shots today. If they had, the Bulldogs may have been able to pull off the upset. But the Catamounts defense has been stellar all season. This was just another example.
Player of the Game: Trey Sumler. Sumler scored 18 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists. I continue to be impressed with Sumler here late in the year. He made 5 of 10 from the floor and 2 of 4 from three point range, while going 6 of 7 from the free throw line. In other words, he didn't miss much on Saturday afternoon and was one of the key reasons the Catamounts came up with the win.
What It All Means: The Bulldogs are still winless in SoCon play. They host Samford and Georgia Southern. Can they come up with a SoCon win? Maybe. Can they win in Asheville? I kind of doubt it. They just aren't good enough. They don't match up well with Western Carolina, though. Fortunately for them, that would definitely not be the first round match-up in Asheville. Western Carolina suddenly is in decent shape. They've won five out of six and three in a row. They host Chattanooga and go to Samford to close out the year. They need to win out and get some help to finish in the third seed, but it's not impossible. Most importantly, they just need to keep on winning to keep the momentum going.
Davidson 59, Wofford 49
Key Stat: Cochran and Collins combined 37.9% from the floor. This is interesting. The Wildcats shot over 50% from the floor, but the key was that the Wildcats defense shut down the Terriers. The key to the Terriers offense is the shooting percentage of Karl Cochran and Spencer Collins. Collins did make 5 of 11 but Cochran made just 6 of 18. That's not really acceptable for the Terriers to have a good chance to win.
Player of the Game: DeMon Brooks. Brooks was in foul trouble in the first half. He made just 6 of 6 from the floor. He made 6 of 7 from the free throw line. In the end, he scored 18 points and had eight rebounds to go along with five assists. One of the most important things in this one was the Brooks avoided foul trouble in the second half, because the Wildcats were a different team in the first half with him on the bench.
What It All Means: Oh, Terriers! How you confound me! The Terriers have only beaten one team that is going to get a bye. They had won eight straight heading in, and the Terriers offense had been so much better. Going against a Davidson defense that has struggled at times, they were ceompletely shut down. Cochran looked like the Cochran of last year again. They go to Elon and host UNCG this week. It's going to be a major challenge to avoid the four-five game at this point. They really have to win both games, more than likely. They could do it, but it will be tough. On the other side, Davidson has played much better defense at home than on the road, and it again showed up. They are a very good offensive team, no doubt, but the defense can be questionable. Still, tonight, they turned the ball over too much and that was the reason the Terriers hung around. Also, Brooks has to avoid foul trouble. This is why there has to be questions about whether or not they can win three games in three days in Asheville- at least compared to the questions in recent years. The Wildcats came up with another solid win, so don't take things too harshly to the Wildcats. They are a very good SoCon basketball team.