ETSU 71, Mercer 70
Player of the Game: Jalen Riley...again. Off the bench, Riley poured in 22 points on 5 of 12 shooting, while making 3 of 7 from three and 9 of 10 from the free throw line. Riley made some big shots in this one that helped the Bucs get the win. Riley is certainly the best player off the bench in the SoCon. If you read Pomeroy's site, he has Riley listed as the second best player in the conference.
Stat of the Game: ETSU 39 rebounds, Mercer 33. The Bears are the biggest team in the SoCon. The Bucs are the smallest. How does ETSU outrebound Mercer? Who knows, but if Mercer had won the battle of the boards, they more than likely would have come up with the win. This was the most surprising stat of the game.
What It All Means: For Mercer, this is their first conference loss, but it is hardly a bad one. They went on the road to Johnson City and lost by just one point against one of the better teams in the SoCon. Their defense let them down for a stretch at the beginning of the game and another one about midway through the second half, and that was what cost them. Ike Nwamu has been interesting. In four SoCon games, he scored 18, then 15, then 12, then tonight he scored just six. For the Bears to be as good as they can be, they need Nwamu to step up and deliver consistently. Still, after three road games to open the January portion of SoCon play, the Bears went 2-1. Now they have three straight home games. I think they would have taken that before this stretch of games. ETSU has Jalen Riley and Rashawn Rembert, who combined to score 39 points and make 8 of 18 from long range. The rest of the team scored 32 points and made just 2 of 8 from three point distance. That is their offensive option. The amazing thing is that the Bucs outrebounded the Bears. This team plays hard, but since they are so guard oriented on offense, they can go through stretches where they don't score. When they are making shots, they look unstoppable. When they are not going in, you wonder if they will ever score again. The Bucs got the huge home win, and now have won more SoCon wins than any team in the conference with four. They get Chattanooga at home on Saturday.
Chattanooga 66, Western Carolina 60
Player of the Game: Justin Tuoyo had fifteen points and nine blocked shots. He only came up with one rebound, which is disappointing. He made 5 of 9 from the floor and knocked down 5 of 7 from the free throw line. Tuoyo was supposed to be a defensive presence, but he is turning into more than that, which really makes the Mocs dangerous.
Stat of the Game: The Mocs came up with a school record 15 blocks on Thursday night. That's incredible. SoCon teams are going to have to figure out a way to shoot over Tuoyo. They have not figured it out yet. This is going to evolve as the season goes on, but on this night, the Catamounts struggled to get good looks.
What It All Means: Western Carolina made nearly 60% from the floor against Furman on Monday but only made 35% tonight. The Catamounts just are not equipped to win games where they shoot that poorly. James Sinclair and Rhett Harrelson combined to shoot 10 of 29 from the floor. The Catamounts are a decent club right now, and hung tough against the Mocs. But they showed they are probably not the equal of the other top four teams in the conference at this point. They are the clear fifth best team right now, but not quite ready to take the jump to the next level. They host UNCG on Saturday. The Mocs showed up defensively, that's for sure. Without Greg Pryor (out with an apparent hip injury), the Mocs needed to turn to some other players to guide the offense. They looked a little lost at times without their point guard. But they made shots when they needed to and stepped up in a big way on the defensive end of the floor. Casey Jones poured in 18 points with 13 rebounds. The Mocs are 3-1 in SoCon play now and tied with Mercer overall, and tied with ETSU in the loss column. The Mocs renew their old rivalry with the Bucs on Saturday.
Wofford 75, VMI 70
Player of the Game: Karl Cochran. Cochran scored 19 points on 7 of 16 shooting, had five rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. No one has been filling up a stat sheet like he has in recent weeks. Cochran has been amazing and he just kept on rolling.
Stat of the Game: VMI 4 of 22 from three point range. How much longer are we going to have to endure this shooting slump from the Keydets? It is starting to get painful at times. It can be almost painful to watch a team that flies up and down the floor like VMI shoot so poorly. Of course, Wofford and Mercer will do that to a lot of SoCon teams this year.
What It All Means: The Keydets finally looked like a good team again, and nearly took out Wofford on their home floor. VMI is now 1-4 in SoCon play, but showed why they have been considered a serious threat to get a bye in the SoCon race. VMI dominated the glass against a bigger Wofford team, but simply did not make enough threes to win the game. This is a quality team that could win a lot of games in SoCon play, but they need better production from QJ Peterson. He made 5 of 18 from the floor and 1 of 7 from three. He is the Keydets best player, but continues to really struggle. They go to Furman on Saturday. Wofford is now 3-0 in SoCon play, and keep their hopes alive for an elusive SoCon at large bid to the NCAA Tournament, slim that they are. The Terriers keep on winning ugly. That is what they do now. They win games where they don't look good doing it. They came back from a second half deficit again to come up with the win. But they keep on winning, so nothing else matters. Wofford gets to play Samford for the second time in a week on Saturday.
The Citadel 77, Samford 67
Player of the Game: Ashton Moore scored 20 points with five rebounds and four assists. Moore made 5 of 13 from the floor and 9 of 9 from the free throw line. He has scored over 20 in each of the last two wins for The Citadel. If he keeps on scoring like that, the Bulldogs will have the offensive weapon they need.
Stat of the Game: The Citadel came up with a 58.3 OR%. Wow. That is unbelievable. I am truly not sure I have ever seen numbers that high in a SoCon game since I have been doing these write ups. They dominated the offensive glass and that was one of the main reasons that they came up with the relatively easy win. Samford simply could not come up with a big defensive rebound.
What It All Means: Samford played OK during stretches, but could not wind up with the win. The rebounding was obviously a major issue. Christen Cunningham scored just eight points, but Darius Jones-Gibson scored 18 points and Brandon Roberts collected 15. This team is 0-5 in SoCon play, but they deserve a better fate. They are not that bad of a team. But with this loss it is time to start worrying about them. With trips to Wofford and Mercer and a home date against Chattanooga in their next three games, this is a really difficult set of games coming up. The team could struggle to maintain any positive momentum during this stretch. They need to come up with something other than a moral victory soon. The Citadel got to 2-2 in SoCon play and suddenly sits tied with Furman and Western Carolina for fifth in the conference. Who saw that coming? They absolutely dominated the glass, Quinton Marshall knocked down some big shots, PJ Horgan came up with four blocks, they made a nice run to close out the game, and now have won three of four. The Bulldogs go to Mercer on Saturday. A win there would tie them with the Bears in the standings. What is going on here? This is one of the most interesting developments in the SoCon right now. How long can it keep up?
Furman 71, UNCG 64
Player of the Game: Devin Sibley scored 21 points on 5 of 9 shooting from the floor and 9 of 13 shooting from the free throw line. He also came up with four rebounds. He played very well. If he can be a valid, consistent option along with Stephen Croone, this team gets much better.
Stat of the Game: Furman 24 of 32 from the free throw line. UNCG 6 of 12. That is a massive difference in a seven point game. The Spartans could not make their free throws and they fouled a lot. The Spartans can not have that combination and expect to win.
What It All Means: The Spartans are now 1-3 in SoCon play after blowing a huge double digit lead on the road against the Paladins on Thursday night. Tevon Saddler went down with a late injury, that may be serious. Nicholas Paulos scored just five points. They held Stephen Croone to ten points and Kendrec Ferrara to zero, which sounds like a recipe for a Spartans win. But they did not close the deal. Things are unraveling quickly. It was a microcosm of the whole season for the Spartans. They look good for stretches, make their fans believe that good things are possible, and then rip their fans heart out with an unbelievably bad finish. Kind of like the whole season. For Furman, they won on a night where Croone and Ferrara combined for ten points! Amazing. That was completely unforeseen. Kris Acox did wind up with eleven points and thirteen rebounds. Ferrara and Acox need to start both playing well at the same time. The Paladins now find themselves tied with The Citadel and Western Carolina for fifth in the SoCon. This is unbelievable. The Paladins host VMI on Saturday. That is a huge opportunity for this team to get to 3-2 in SoCon play and start to make their fan base really believe they can get a bye.