Wofford 49, Mercer 46
Player of the Game: Lee Skinner scored 10 points on 4 of 7 shooting from the floor. He also had six rebounds, three of them offensive. He also had two assists. On a night when no one had a big offensive night, Skinner had a solid all around game.
Stat of the Game: Four turnovers for Wofford. The Terriers somehow managed to commit just four turnovers. While the game was awful offensively, the Terriers protected the ball, which was crucial. If you are going to shoot 35.7% from the floor, not committing turnovers at least gives you more opportunities to score.
What It All Means: After I said in the previews that this would be a showdown of impressive, efficient offenses, these two teams turned in brilliant defensive performances. Of course, the two teams combined for just thirteen turnovers. For Mercer, they got the split they needed this week. They beat Chattanooga and lost to Wofford, both in great games. Mercer goes to The Citadel and Furman this week. The Bears still have a chance at the SoCon regular season title, but they definitely need some help now as they sit two games behind Wofford. They probably can not afford another loss. Only Ike Nwamu got to double digits with ten points in this one. They have to get more offensive production to win, but this was a throw back to out of conference for them. They were great on the defensive end, but struggled offensively. For Wofford, the Terriers have gained firm control of first place in the SoCon. Karl Cochran and Spencer Collins combined to shoot 8 of 27 from the floor and 17 points, and yet the Terriers won. That would have not happened a year ago. Wofford has won five straight games. This week is going to be tough. The Terriers go to ETSU and VMI this week. It is a massively important week for Wofford. We'll see what happens here.
Western Carolina 78, UNCG 73
Player of the Game: There are several to choose from for Western Carolina, but I'll go with Mike Brown. Brown scored 12 points but also had thirteen rebounds, an assist, a block and three steals. He made 6 of 13 from the floor. Brown has really come on recently for the Catamounts and has made a big difference in this team's performance.
Stat of the Game: The Catamounts turned the ball over just seven times, and UNCG turned it over fourteen. Tevon Saddler turned the ball over seven times all by himself for the Spartans. That made a huge difference in who won this contest.
What It All Means: For UNCG, things are looking darker and darker. They are now in last place in the conference and it is difficult to find games to win. They played better defensively against the Catamounts in some respects, but did not force turnovers. This team has the talent to put a run together at some point, but when is that point? They have just one home game in their next five games, and that is against ETSU, who will be looking to avenge the loss in Johnson City. Their final three are at home against Furman, Samford and Chattanooga. By then, who needs where this team's head will be? The Catamounts did what they needed to do and now are in much better shape in regard to the bye. They sit in the fifth spot and are now up by one and a half games on the six spot and a full two games on the seventh spot. That is good shape if you are trying to get a bye. They are tied with ETSU for the fourth spot, though the only difference in fourth and fifth is which team wears white in the quarterfinals. Western Carolina has developed more weapons as the season has gone on. Mike Brown is showing vast improvement. James Sinclair and Rhett Harrelson have been good throughout the year and Torrion Brummitt has been solid. This team won two big road games this week against VMI and UNCG. Next week, they host Samford and Chattanooga.
Chattanooga 78, The Citadel 73
Player of the Game: Casey Jones scored 23 points on 10 of 16 shooting. He had two rebounds and two assists, while also coming up with three blocked shots. Jones scored 19 points in the first half when the Mocs jumped out to a big lead. He was not as good in the second half, but Jones really had a solid week, scoring 24 against Mercer and 23 tonight.
Stat of the Game: Chattanooga made 20 of 26 from the free throw line and The Citadel made 12 of 15 from the charity stripe. The eight additional made free throws really were important in helping the Mocs come up with the win.
What It All Means: The final score does not truly indicate how well the Mocs played. The Mocs were up 17 at halftime, and were up double digits most of the second half. The Citadel made a three at the buzzer to trim the final score to five. Still, for The Citadel, this loss leaves them at 3-7 in SoCon play and their defense continues to struggle mightily. They are just one game out of the final bye spot in the conference race, but also just up one game on last place. So they are downright complicated. Since beating Wofford, the Bulldogs have lost four straight games. They host Mercer and UNCG next weekend. Those two home games give them a chance to right the ship a bit. For the Mocs, the defense has now struggled in consecutive games and it may be time to start asking some questions about it. This is the second straight game a team shot over 50% against them. Still, after tonight's game, the Mocs are back alone in second place in the conference and in a position to make a run at the regular season title. With games at Furman and Western Carolina next week, we'll know much more about where the Mocs are heading in the conference race after that.
Samford 68, Furman 58
Player of the Game: Darius Jones-Gibson scored 19 points while having six assists, four rebounds and three steals. He made 6 of 11 from the floor. He did really struggle from the free throw line. He made 7 of 15 from there. Still, Jones-Gibson was very good.
Stat of the Game: Furman had 17 turnovers and Samford had 8 turnovers. That was a critical difference. The Samford pressure defense really bothered Furman and gave the Bulldogs the win.
What It All Means: The Paladins find themselves still in the final bye of the SoCon Tournament spot. But things just got a lot tighter. They are up just one half game on VMI and they are up just one game on The Citadel and just one and a half on Samford now. Things are certainly tight. Stephen Croone played fabulous, but Kris Acox and Kendrec Ferrara combined for four points and Geoff Beans and Devin Sibley combined so to shoot 3 of 12 from the floor. That's not good for the Paladins. They have two huge home games next weekend against Chattanooga and Mercer. For Samford, that is now three straight wins. They are now out of last place in the SoCon and possibly in position to make a run at the final bye. They have just two home games in their last seven though. But they are playing with more confidence now. Can the Bulldogs start winning away from home? They go to Western Carolina and ETSU next week. If the Bulldogs can somehow come up with a split or better, they will really thrust themselves into the bye discussion. This team needs to keep on winning now that they are heading away from home. All along it was obvious that Samford was not as bad as their record indicated. Their record is beginning to come closer to matching.