ETSU 98, VMI 88
Player of the Game: Jalen Riley scored 32 points, had five steals, four rebounds and two assists. Riley made 11 of 17 from the floor and 10 of 11 from the free throw line. No one else scored more than 17 points on either team. Riley played a great game and was the main reason that the Bucs were able to pull away.
Stat of the Game: VMI 10 of 45 from three point range. The Keydets made just 22.2% from three point range and took a ton of threes. That's what they do. When they don't go in, they have problems. they had problems on Friday night. Make just 31.1% of their threes (four more) and the Keydets would have scored 100 points, and had a much improved chance of winning this one.
What It All Means: The Keydets find themselves in a 1-2 SoCon hole, but continue to show why they are dangerous. They scored plenty, but when QJ Peterson is off, as he was in this one going 3 of 17, they need other people to step up. Yes, other Keydets played well, but they need more. Peterson can't have a bunch of off nights if they are going to win in the SoCon. The Bucs are now 2-1 in SoCon play. They go to Samford before hosting Mercer and Chattanooga next weekend. That makes for a big couple of days for the Bucs. They are not a big team, but when facing off with VMI that didn't matter. It will matter much more against Mercer and Chattanooga next weekend.
Western Carolina 78, The Citadel 70
Player of the Game: James Sinclair came up with 22 points, three rebounds and four assists. He made 7 of 14 from the floor, including two of four from three, and 6 of 7 from the free throw line. Sinclair also played 38 minutes. He is the Catamounts best player, and was the main reason they came up with the win in this one.
Stat of the Game: The Citadel committed 19 turnovers and Western Carolina had just 8 turnovers. The Bulldogs played a great game other than all those turnovers. They shot the ball well, rebounded pretty well, but could not protect the ball well enough to win the game. The Citadel has little margin for error and needs to put together a full game for them to win a road game like this.
What It All Means: For the Bulldogs, they just didn't quite put it all together. They outrebounded the Catamounts. They shot over 50%, but the turnovers did them in. This is a team that is much improved and showing some signs of life. At 0-2 in SoCon play, they need to get some wins to try to get back into the bye race. They go to UNCG on Monday before hosting Samford. Could the Bulldogs go 2-0 in those? If they play the way they did today, it's not impossible. The Catamounts nearly blew one at home that they shouldn't have, but it is all about surviving when you don't play your best. The Catamounts are 1-1 in the SoCon, which is right where they needed to be. They get three of their next four at home, so if they can protect their home court, they can be off to a good start in SoCon play at the end of that stretch. Furman on Monday night is actually a very big game for this club.
Wofford 68, Samford 65
Player of the Game: Karl Cochran was far from brilliant, but he was good enough. He scored 15 with five rebounds and four blocks. Cochran is one of the best players in the SoCon, and while he was not great, he was good enough to get the Terriers the win on the road in this one. Wofford needs Cochran to step up when the rest of the team is failing and he did that pretty well in this one.
Stat of the Game: Samford had three starters with zero points. While Christen Cunningham scored 20 points and Darius Jones-Gibson scored 15, no other starter scored. Alex Peters only played six minutes, Nnamdi Enechionyia played just eleven, but Tyler Hood played 32, did not score, had five rebounds and two assists. Hood needs to bring more to the table than that for Samford to win a big game like this.
What It All Means: The Bulldogs played a very solid basketball game at home on Saturday afternoon, taking the conference's presumed favorite down to the very end. This team lacks a lot of things, but they are playing hard right now and have growing confidence by the game. Their four game win streak is over, but there is nothing to be ashamed of here. The Bulldogs dropped to 0-3 in SoCon play and it is time to come up with a few wins. They host ETSU on Monday and then travel to The Citadel on Thursday before heading to Wofford for a rematch next week. The Terriers have really not played a solid game since they beat North Carolina State. There seems to be something kind of missing right now for the Terriers. They play a lot of ugly games and that is kind of how they prefer to win, but they look anything but unbeatable right now. Are they just waiting for the right challenge? If so, Monday night at Chattanooga might just be that challenge.
Mercer 76, UNCG 55
Player of the Game: Jibri Bryan scored just ten points, but came up with ten rebounds and three steals. Bryan was good in this one. Bryan had scored just nine total points in the three previous games against SEC teams, but put ten points on the board in this one. VMI is the only other game that he came up with double digit rebounds this year. In other words, he has averaged double digit rebounds in SoCon games so far, but has averaged just 3.5 the rest of the year.
Stat of the Game: Mercer had an eFG of 63.5%. That's unbelievable. If you are a Mercer fan, you will take that every time. Mercer's defense is consistently good, but when their offense is clicking like that, very few teams will be able to stop them. Was that because of UNCG's notably porous defense or because Mercer is just that good at running offense? It's hard to know. We won't know after their next game at VMI either more than likely, but when they go to ETSU this weekend, we'll know plenty.
What It All Means: The Spartans are left with only questions and very few answers. Nicholas Paulos only took three shots (criminal in my opinion) and RJ White only scored four points. The entire Spartans bench was held scoreless. Diante Baldwin looks like a difference maker and Tevon Saddler has a ton of talent, but this Spartans team came out and got steamrolled at home by one of the conference favorites. The Spartans remain one of the most puzzling teams night in and night out in the SoCon under Wes Miller. The Bears came out and took it to a team that won at ETSU last month. This team can play lock down defense for long stretches of games like probably no other team in the SoCon can. That's what makes this Mercer team so good. They leave a lot to be desired on the offensive end at times, but that defensive presence is so consistently good, this team is never going to be an easy out for anyone.
Chattanooga 72, Furman 60
Player of the Game: Casey Jones stood up and delivered in the second half. He wound up with 20 points, eleven rebounds and four assists, all team highs. His alley oop dunk was also a momentum changer early in the second half. He made 8 of 12 from the floor. He played very well on Saturday night and will need that kind of performance again when the Mocs take the floor against Wofford on Monday.
Stat of the Game: Mocs OR 36.7%, Paladins 23.1%. The Mocs collected eleven offensive rebounds to the Paladins six and that was a significant difference in this game. The Mocs did not dominate the offensive glass, but their ability to keep Furman to one and done on the other end was critical to their victory. The Mocs did a good enough job on the offensive glass to get enough extra possessions to come up with the win.
What It All Means: The Paladins played generally well in this one. Kendrec Ferrara really showed up with 13 points and six rebounds going against Justin Tuoyo. Stephen Croone scored 18. But Kris Acox had just two points only played 17 minutes. Geoff Beans only had three points and three rebounds. The Paladins are an improved team, but are not an impressive defensive club, and probably need a few more players to get things humming. The Mocs needed to come out and just play the game and assume that eventually they would wear out the Paladins. That's essentially what happened. The Mocs did not play with incredible energy during any one spurt tonight, like we have sometimes seen at home this year. But there was consistent effort and that is exactly the kind of performance that is needed against a team like Furman at home. The Mocs took care of business and are now 2-0 in SoCon play, as they head into Monday's huge showdown at home against Wofford.