Mercer 75, Chattanooga 72 (OT)
Player of the Game: Phillip Leonard scored 18 points, had seven assists and five rebounds. He made 7 of 9 from the floor. It was Leonard's play late that really helped to cement the game. Of course, it was missed free throws late (he made just 2 of his final 6) that helped keep Chattanooga in the game. But he was in control of the game throughout as the point guard and really played well.
Stat of the Game: Mercer made 27 of 53 from the floor for 50.3%. The Mocs defense had been the most efficient in the SoCon heading into this game, but Mercer's #1 ranked offense was simply better than them on this night. The Mocs could not stop them if they got a shot off. It was a critical match-up of best on best, and Mercer's best was better.
What It All Means: For the Mocs, this one could leave a mark. After trailing by fifteen in the second half, the Mocs clawed back and had the lead late and had the final shot of regulation to win it but could not get it done. They struggled to start off overtime, but fought back and had a chance to take the lead late in overtime, but could not do it. The Mocs did a great job rebounding (outrebounding Mercer by eleven) and committed just eight turnovers. Those were the positives. The Mocs defense could not stop Mercer's offense. That was the negative. The Mocs need to not let this loss turn into multiple losses. They host The Citadel on Saturday. The Bears needed this win badly since it was a home game. Mercer lost at ETSU earlier this year and needed to prove where they fit in the SoCon race. This win was critical for them. Ike Nwamu was brilliant early, but it was Darious Moten and Phillip Leonard who were brilliant late. The Bears shut down the Mocs offense, other than forcing turnovers and collecting rebounds. Mercer has a chance at the SoCon lead when they go to Wofford on Saturday night. A win would put them in first in the standings. This team can go a long way to cementing their spot with a win Saturday night.
Western Carolina 85, VMI 70
Player of the Game: James Sinclair scored 28 point with nine rebounds, to go along with four assists, two steals and two blocks. He was 11 of 21 from the floor and 6 of 10 from the free throw line. Sinclair really filled up the stat sheet tonight.
Stat of the Game: Western Carolina 57 rebounds, VMI 29. Unreal rebounding numbers. The Catamounts collected 50% of the offensive rebounds and VMI had just 22% of their offensive rebounds. Torrion Brummitt and Justin Browning each had nine rebounds like Sinclair and Tucker Thompson had eleven. Thompson and Sinclair each had five offensive rebounds. It is very difficult to win games when you get outrebounded like that.
What It All Means: The Keydets continue to alternate wins and losses and now are 1-1 on the five game homestand that they desperately need as many wins as they can get out of. No starters scored in double figures, Craig Hinton made 1 of 11 from three and the entire Keydets team could not shoot from anywhere. This is becoming the norm far too often for VMI. They host UNCG on Thursday night. For the Catamounts, Rhett Harrelson scored just three points and yet they still won going away. Mike Brown was brilliant, scoring 21 points to go along with the performance by Sinclair. They did commit 22 turnovers, but all those rebounds made all the difference. They are 5-5 in SoCon play and just a half game out of the fourth spot in the SoCon. They go to UNCG on Saturday night in a game where they can not take their eye off the ball. They need to not lose focus and make sure they come up with the win in a game they will be favored in.
Furman 59, ETSU 55
Player of the Game: Stephen Croone has been taken on a smaller shooting role lately, but not tonight. He poured in 24 points with 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block. He made 6 of 14 from the floor and 3 of 7 from three point range, while knocking in 9 of 12 from the free throw line. Croone really stepped his game up to a new level tonight. Eleven rebounds for Croone? That's impressive.
Stat of the Game: ETSU 4 of 6 from the free throw line. It is not the percentage so much as that the Bucs only got to the free throw line six times. Furman got there 22 times and made 14. The Paladins made ten more free throws and won by four. So the free throw line was a key difference in this one. Furman was called for just ten fouls the whole game. It's pretty rare to see that few fouls called on a team for a game.
What It All Means: It's uh-oh time for the Bucs. They fall to 6-5 in conference play, which is tied in the loss column with Furman and Western Carolina. That puts them still in the top six, even in losses, but they are now just up two games for the final bye. They play a home game against Wofford next Thursday and that is almost a must win. The Bucs did not make many shots tonight. Jalen Riley and Rashawn Rembert combined for just 16 points. It has been true all year that if those two don't combine for a lot more points, the Bucs don't win games. For the Paladins, Stephen Croone was back to his scoring self. He had a tremendous game. Now, they are 4-5 in SoCon play and find themselves in sixth in the SoCon standings. Given how they have played for much of the year out of conference, the Paladins should be thrilled to be in this position. They go to Samford on Saturday night. That game will be critical to the Paladins as they try to chase down more teams in front of them. This team is really coming together.
Wofford 58, UNCG 42
Player of the Game: Spencer Collins scored 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting from the floor. He also had four rebounds. Collins has stepped up his game in the last couple of weeks. If he keeps on playing at the level he is playing at, Cochran continues to play at his high level and Skinner plays like he did tonight, the Terriers are going to be very difficult to beat.
Stat of the Game: Terriers 21 of 35 from the floor. Because of the fouls on UNCG, the Terriers took just 35 shots from the floor in 40 minutes of action, which is an incredible snail-like pace to begin with. Still, they knocked down 60% of their shots. The Spartans are known for not playing good defense against patient, fundamentally sound offensive teams. Tonight was no exception.
What It All Means: The Spartans fell to 2-7 in SoCon play. They started off well, jumping out to a 12-2 lead, but then basically didn't score the rest of the game, scoring just 30 for the remainder. They did not make shots. They did not defend, allowing Wofford to shoot the ball really well. The Spartans have dug themselves a deep hole. They host Western Carolina on Saturday in a game they have to win if they want to maintain contact in the bye race. Wofford came out and played about like expected. They struggled out of the gate, but efficiently put the game out of reach. Now, the Terriers are alone in first place in the SoCon. They get to host Mercer on Saturday. A win there would give them a pretty solid lead in the conference, while a loss could put them back into a three way tie for first. Wofford would have won by a lot more tonight, but they did not make free throws, making just 14 of 27. But the rest of the offensive numbers were impressive and the defense was solid too. This team is really coming into their own.