Davidson 77, Samford 54
Key Stat: Tim Williams 6 points, 4 rebounds. Samford fans wonder why some hesitate to include Tim Williams in their top five players in the SoCon. The reason is that he strangely comes up with games like this right when Samford needs him most. Just six point and four rebounds? He only took six shots? Why did the offense not revolve around him? Yes, Davidson's defense had a lot to do with that, but Williams needs to step up bigger in the big moments.
Player of the Game: DeMon Brooks. Brooks scored 26 points and twelve rebounds while Tim Williams was struggling. He made 9 of 17 from the floor, 6 of 8 from the free throw line and came up with five offensive rebounds. That's why he was the SoCon Player of the Year. That's why the Wildcats count on him.
What It All Means: Davidson advances to the semifinals, and they played a complete game today. The worry has been about the defense, but the defense came through today very nicely. The Wildcats will need to keep on knocking down shots and playing good defense. If they do, they will win the SoCon Tournament. Obviously. They are the best team in the tournament, and this was a very good first game in the tournament for them. For Samford, there are real questions about this team as we head into the offseason. In a lot of ways, they underachieved. They should have been better than they were. How will that translate into the new SoCon next year? That remains unclear. With the Williams' and Raijon Kelly, they should be one of the top teams in the SoCon next year. But they did nothing but raise questions with their performance this year.
Western Carolina 66, Elon 64
Key Stat: Catamounts 18 offensive rebounds. Western Carolina is not a big team. Elon is a pretty big team. Yet, it was the Catamounts that pounded the offensive glass in this one. That is one of this team's calling cards, and they used it to their full advantage in this one.
Player of Game: Tawaski King. It's tempting to go with Rhett Harrelson, who knocked down the two biggest threes of the game, but King wound up with 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting from the floor and ten rebounds, six of them on the offensive end. King is such a competitor, and he always seems to play his best games in Asheville. If he puts together two more games like this one, the Catamounts might just be the SoCon Champs.
What It All Means: Western Carolina won in surprising fashion, showing that the Catamount continue to win games at US Cellular in unusual ways. This was a really great comeback, and they are a dangerous team tomorrow against Davidson in the SoCon semifinals. They have the talent, the senior leadership and the seeming home court advantage in it. They really established themselves. For Elon, this was nothing short of a disappointing season. In the end, despite having all those seniors and the team that finished third in the SoCon and knocked the Phoenix out of the conference tournament leave the conference, the Phoenix finished lower in the regular season standings and got knocked out of the tournament earlier. Next year, they move to a tougher conference. I'm not sure how they survive in the CAA. It could be ugly for a few years.
Georgia Southern 62, Chattanooga 55
Key Stat: Chattanooga 4 of 20 from three point range. The Mocs have lacked shooters all year. They simply did not have the shooters to shoot Georgia Southern out of their 2-3 zone in this one. Z Mason made 3 of 5 from three point range. The rest of the team? 1 of 15. That's not good.
Player of the Game: Tre Bussey. Bussey has scored 17 points along with two rebounds and three assists. He made 7 of 15 from the floor and three of four from the free throw line. Bussey did not make a three, but he made two massive shots down the stretch that put the game out of reach.
What It All Means: Georgia Southern played an excllent game against a team they match up well against. The Eagles guards controlled the game after halftime. They played great defense throughout the contest. The Eagles will be a dangerous team in the semifinal. They have Jelani Hewitt and Bussey. They can win tomorrow. Can they win Monday? That's hard to imagine. For Chattanooga, this was a very disappointing loss. The Mocs have now not won a SoCon game in four straight tournaments. Next year, the Mocs should be significantly better than they were this year. They will miss Z Mason tremendously, but will be a better team overall. Next year will probably be a good year, but winning a SoCon Tournament game remains elusive to this team.
Wofford 68, The Citadel 51
Key Stat: Wofford 52.1% from the floor. The Terriers, when they play well offensively, are so difficult to beat. The Terriers were very good tonight on offense. If the Terriers play like that on offense for the rest of the tournament, they could easily win this whole thing.
Player of the Game: Eric Garcia. Yes, Karl Cochran probably deserves this. However, Garcia scored 19 on 7 of 9 shooting. He also had four assists. Garcia is an underrated player for the Terriers and deserves to be recognized. He earned it in this one.
What It All Means: For Wofford, they survived a real challenge for the Bulldogs, despite what the final score says. This was a good first test for the Terriers in this tournament. They get another team fresh off an upset in the semifinals, which means they are just moving along, and starting to feel a little like a team of destiny. Can the Terriers play like this offensively every game? If they do, they will win this tournament. Of course, the Bulldogs lack of a great defense may be part of the reason the Terriers offense looked so good. The Bulldogs have something to build on as they move on to next year. They won three straight games before this one, and should feel pretty good as they move into the offseason. They may be able to build on this solid play next year and do something with it.