Chattanooga 74, ETSU 71 (OT)
Player of the Game: Casey Jones. Hard to go anywhere else considering what happened at the end. Jones not only knocked down the game winning three with one second left, but he also came up with the offensive rebound with nineteen seconds left that gave the Mocs the final possession. He only scored nine, but came up with eleven rebounds, including six offensive boards. What a huge finish from the Mocs best player.
Stat of the Game: ETSU made 9 of 20 from the free throw line. This is one of the best free throw shooting teams in the SoCon, and they made just 45% of their free throws in this one. That was a major contributing factor that the Mocs were able to get the game to overtime and wind up winning. The Bucs need to make more free throws in the future if they want to not get into situations like that.
What It All Means: The Bucs lost a heartbreaker at home and thus proved that they are probably just a nose behind Chattanooga overall at this point. The Mocs were without the starting point guard, Greg Pryor, and still managed to win the game on the road. The Bucs managed to outrebound the bigger Mocs and also to shoot a higher percentage. But they could not come up with the win because of those free throws. Lester Wilson stepped up in a big way, and Petey McClain knocked down his first three threes of the year. As evidenced by the games this week in Johnson City, Chattanooga, ETSU and Mercer are all REALLY closely bunched. The Bucs go to Western Carolina and VMI this week. The Mocs, on the other hand, shot too many threes, Justin Tuoyo showed that he is not sure how to handle a double team, and Rico White could not find a way to knock down a shot in the second half. Still, Eric Robertson came up with twenty and Martynas Bareika came up with 13. This Mocs team needs Pryor to be a great offensive team, but they have been playing lock down defense in SoCon play, ranking first in Defensive Efficiency according to Pomeroy in conference games. The Mocs have just one game this week- at a Samford team that played ETSU and Wofford very close in the last week at their gym.
Mercer 74, The Citadel 51
Player of the Game: Ike Nwamu. It was nice to see Nwamu contributing big plays again, as he has been kind of quiet lately. He came up with 15 points to lead the Bears. Nwamu makes plays happen on the offensive side and when he is going, the Bears are much tougher to beat.
Stat of the Game: Mercer committed just three turnovers. It is almost impossible to go through practice with no defensive players and commit just three turnovers. The Bears went through an entire forty minute game against The Citadel committing just three. That is incredibly impressive. The Bulldogs have a hard enough time slowing down other offenses when they make a normal amount of mistakes. When they don't make any, it really is impossible to slow down the any offense. The Bears were near flawless.
What It All Means: The Citadel is just not a good defensive team. We've seen it time and again. They allowed Mercer to corral over 44% of the offensive rebounds, only forced the three turnovers and allowed Mercer to shoot almost 52% from the floor. That's just not good defense. Ashton Moore scored just five points and committed seven turnovers. The Bulldogs had over 50 OR% against Samford on Thursday. On Saturday, just 22.7%. The Bulldogs are not ready yet to go on the road and win a game against a high quality opponent, like Mercer is. They get Wofford and Furman at home this week. Are they ready to take out a high quality opponent like the Terriers at home? Doubtful. Mercer did not play particularly good defense, though they completely took Moore out of the game. But The Citadel still shot 50% from the floor. But the Bears did all the little things in this game. They hit the glass on the offensive end. They did not commit turnovers. They made the Bulldogs be one and done on the offensive end. That's how you slowly destroy a basketball team's confidence. Easy enough to see. The Bears also got Ike Nwamu involved in the offense. He lead the team with 15 points on 6 of 11 shooting. Phillip Leonard had eight assists. This Bears team is very good and will be in a dogfight for second in the SoCon the whole way with ETSU and Chattanooga. They host Furman and Samford this week.
VMI 83, Furman 73
Player of the Game: Tim Marshall. Marshall scored 12 points and had four rebounds. He made 4 of 8 from long range. The Keydets have really been struggling shooting the ball and they needed someone to knock down a few threes. Marshall gave them that consistency on Saturday, and that was a major reason they were able to beat Furman.
Stat of the Game: Keydets 12 of 32 (37.5%) from three point range. During the recent three game losing streak, VMI did not make more than 34.3% of their threes and had made just 26.5% of their threes. Making just a little bit better percentage from three tonight made all the difference in their offensive output and efficiency tonight.
What It All Means: The Paladins were not ready for this match-up. They committed too many turnovers (17), only came up with a few offensive rebounds (5), and let VMI shoot better than they have recently. In a game with as many possessions as you have against VMI, you can not only come up with five offensive rebounds unless you are shooting lights out. Furman was not. Stephen Croone looked like himself again, scoring 21 points, but Kendrec Ferrara continues to regress. He scored just two points. Kris Acox did score 14 points with nine rebounds. Going to Mercer, The Citadel and Wofford in their next three games is going to be a brutal stretch. VMI won relatively handily on the road in a game that they had to win. They could not afford to drop to 1-5 in SoCon play. This was a must win and they came up with it. They only turned the ball over ten times and QJ Peterson wound up with 18 points. They forced those turnovers and did enough to win. This is still the team most likely from the "Bottom Five" to get a bye, I believe, and they played like it today. They go to UNCG and host ETSU this week. It's another set of important games.
Western Carolina 82, UNCG 72
Player of the Game: Mike Brown had a career high 27 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists. He made 8 of 12 from the floor and 9 of 14 from the free throw line. With James Sinclair declared academically ineligible and being out the rest of the year, players like Brown are now key contributors and he put it together in a big way.
Stat of the Game: Western Carolina 59.6 eFG%. The Catamounts were blazing hot shooting from the floor. Of course, the Spartans defense should be used to that by now. It always seems to happen to them. Western Carolina needed that kind of shooting day to put away the Spartans on Saturday and they got exactly what they needed, knocking down 10 of 19 from three point range.
What It All Means: UNCG made just 35% of their shots on Saturday. That's not good. Without Tevon Saddler, the Spartans need to come up with someone else that can make a big shot. RJ White and Kayel Locke really stepped up, scoring 41 points. They combined for 16 of 22 from the free throw line. Diante Baldwin had 14 points with five rebounds and eight assists. Until Saddler is back and healthy (he is listed as day-to-day), the Spartans are going to struggle. This team is incomplete. They host VMI on Wednesday and have Saturday off this week. At 1-4 in SoCon play, this team is in real trouble right now. For the Catamounts, without James Sinclair, this is their new reality. They need Mike Brown, Rhett Harrelson and Torrion Brummitt to score in bunches. This is who they are now. Not that that is a bad thing. This club still is a team that can win games in the SoCon and certainly can get a bye. But these next three games are as tough as any in the SoCon. They host ETSU, go to Wofford and come home for Mercer. That's rough. At 3-2 in SoCon play, the Catamounts can make a huge statement in those games about where they fit into the SoCon race.
Wofford 72, Samford 62
Player of the Game: Karl Cochran scored 17 points on 6 of 12 shooting from the floor and 5 of 10 shooting from long range, and added seven rebounds and three assists. Cochran continues to be the Terriers best overall player and one of the best players in the SoCon.
Stat of the Game: Cochran and Spencer Collins combined to have a 68.2 eFG%. That's tough to beat. I've always said when those two shoot well, the Terriers are close to unbeatable. Collins has been struggling, but played very well Saturday. That was why Wofford was able to withstand Samford's push in the end.
What It All Means: Samford is the puzzle that keeps on being puzzling. They are now 0-6 in SoCon play, but have played Wofford very close twice in the last week. This team seems like it is close to putting something together, but have just not won one yet. The Bulldogs are not bad, with Christen Cunningham and Darius Jones-Gibson are good SoCon players. This week, they host Chattanooga and go to Mercer. The Bulldogs will have a chance to beat the Mocs at home for sure if they do not come ready to play. Wofford continues to be a puzzle too. They have not lost a SoCon game this year and sit at 4-0. But they have not dominated any of the teams they have played. In fact, they have looked downright bad at times. When are the Terriers going to start playing like the SoCon favorite and the possible NCAA at-large team that they are? They go to The Citadel and host Western Carolina this week. Wofford wins ugly, but I keep on waiting for them to look like the team so many people think they are.