Wofford 75, Western Carolina 55
Player of the Game: Karl Cochran scored 26 points with five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. Cochran made 9 of 16 from the floor and 7 of 13 from three point range. He was really red hot in this one. When Cochran shoots the ball that well, the Terriers are really tough to beat.
Stat of the Game: Wofford had a 62.1 eFG% while Western Carolina just had a 34.8 eFG%. In other words, the Terriers couldn't miss and the Catamounts couldn't make anything. The Catamounts are a good shooting team, but did not show it in this one and that was the biggest reason for the twenty point home loss.
What It All Means: For Western Carolina, this game hurts their chances to get into the two or three seed dramatically, but given their remaining schedule, it does not particularly hurt their chances for a bye. Their magic number to lock down a bye is one and with VMI at home and trips to Furman and The Citadel remaining, the Catamounts really should be able to win at least one of those. The Catamounts did not show us anything too surprising. When they shoot the ball that poorly, they are going to lose. They rebounded the ball very well against Wofford, but just couldn't finish. Rhett Harrelson, Mike Brown and James Sinclair finished with a combined 27 points. That isn't going to get it done for Western Carolina. On the other hand, this game meant a lot to Wofford. Almost for sure, the Terriers need to lose twice more to have any chance of not winning the regular season championship. They host UNCG and The Citadel before going to Mercer and Furman. It's not impossible to lose two of those games, but they are back in pretty good control of the SoCon race at this point. The Terriers offense was excellent in this one. It seems like it takes a loss every now and then to get this team to play at their full capability. That is not really a good quality. But they were clearly motivated to come out and focus tonight. They were outrebounded by a bushel, which is troubling, but they protected the ball and shot the ball well. It was another productive, efficient offensive night. They have not had many of those against the top teams in the conference. This was one. It couldn't have come at a better time.
ETSU 66, Furman 59
Player of the Game: Lester Wilson had 20 points and seven rebounds. With Jalen Riley out, someone needed to pick up the slack. Wilson has played well, but he played even better in this one. He made 6 of 10 from the floor and 7 of 9 from the free throw line.
Stat of the Game: Stephen Croone went 1 for 11 from the floor. The ETSU defense locked down on him. I am not trying to blame Croone for this one, but when he does not score the ball at least pretty well, Furman is going to struggle.
What It All Means: For the Paladins, things are starting to unravel a bit. Now, the losing streak has reached five games, and despite the difficulty of the schedule during that stretch, it is becoming tougher and tougher for them to get into position to get a bye. They fought hard to come back from down fourteen to cut it to one, but to no avail. Devin Sibley stepped up and had a huge night, and I'll say it again- if this team ever gets everyone going on the same day, look out. They could be a major thorn in someone's side. As we close in on Asheville, they are team that could be dangerous because they have one of the conference's best players in Croone and a host of others that, if they put it together, are extraordinarily dangerous. For the Bucs, this was a nice gut check win without Jalen Riley. This was a huge win for the team. They needed to get this one after winning at UNCG on Thursday night. Now they go out of conference to host Tennessee Tech before wrapping up conference play with three straight road games. They are in solid position for the bye, needing to win just one of those games to lock it down regardless of any other outcomes. But playing at Chattanooga, The Citadel and Mercer is not an easy way to wrap it up. This team is a dangerous team offensively, but undersized. They are probably not a good bet to win the SoCon Tournament, but can certainly throw a scare into anyone.
Mercer 55, UNCG 50
Player of the Game: Jibri Bryan had eleven points, with six rebounds. He made 4 of 8 from the floor. Bryan has been another solid contributor that has not gone noticed too often for the Bears. Today is his turn.
Stat of the Game: Tevon Saddler, Diante Baldwin, Kayel Locke and Marvin Smith, four of the Spartans starters, combined for 14 points on 6 of 32 shooting from the floor. That is 18.8% shooting from four starters. That won't win you many games.
What It All Means: For the Spartans, in some ways, this game gives them even more hope. After all, after falling behind by 15 to the Bears, they fought back and Nicholas Paulos missed a three in the last ten seconds that would have tied it. They go to Wofford on Thursday night before having their last three games at home. Furman, Samford and Chattanooga are the final three games. Win two or three of those four and they still have a shot at the bye. RJ White was almost unstoppable and Paulos had a solid game, but they can't afford to let their other four starters completely fall apart. This win for Mercer, when combined with the loss of Western Carolina, helps to really put them in decent shape for a top three seed. They have four really tough games to close, so nothing is locked up yet. They go to Chattanooga and Samford next week before hosting Wofford and ETSU to close things out. To have any shot at winning the conference, they have to win out. To have any shot at finishing second, they really need to beat Chattanooga and probably get at least one or two other wins. Things are tough for them. But if they can win at least two, they will finish third. That's a real positive, because fourth would have been a major disappointment. This Bears club played decent offense today, but really played great defense. This club is heading for home, and has a shot at a second consecutive NCAA bid. Huge closing stretch coming up.
Chattanooga 79, Samford 72
Player of the Game: Eric Robertson gets the slight nod over Casey Jones and Justin Tuoyo. Robertson finished with 21 points, two rebounds, two assists and three blocks. He made 7 of 11 from the floor including 5 of 8 from three point range. It was his shooting that really helped the Mocs put this one away.
Stat of the Game: The Mocs committed ten first half turnovers and were tied at the half. The Mocs committed just four second half turnovers and pulled away for the win. They shot the ball well and rebounded well, so cutting out the turnovers was the biggest difference in this one.
What It All Means: For Samford, their five game winning streak ended Thursday and now they find themselves on a two game losing streak. Evan Taylor stepped up and had a big game, which was very nice. But the Bulldogs need to get wins. They are in a very tight battle for the final bye. They have a home game against Mercer before going on the road to UNCG and VMI to wrap up their season. They probably need two wins to really feel good about their chances of getting a bye. This is an improving team that no one wants to go up against in Asheville, but they are still learning what it takes to win. The Mocs played a very good game overall. They rebounded very well, protected the ball in the second half, shot the ball well, and even made 16 of 22 free throws in the second half (72.7%) after making just 30% in the first half. Casey Jones continued to show off his skills, while Justin Tuoyo played his game in a while. This team is still growing and maturing, but they are a solid team. With home dates against Mercer and ETSU next week, the Mocs better continue to show improvement. It doesn't get any easier.
VMI 84, The Citadel 69
Player of the Game: Tim Marshall drained 8 of 19 from three and scored 26 points. He also had four rebounds, two assists and a steal. Marshall played lights out for the second straight game, guiding the Keydets to an important win.
Stat of the Game: The Citadel committed fifteen turnovers. The Bulldogs felt the pressure from VMI's defense and committed nearly double the turnovers the Keydets did. That was a huge difference in this game.
What It All Means: For The Citadel, they could not follow up the good fortune of the win against Samford with another home win. They have now lost three games to VMI this season. They are just a game and a half out of the final bye, but they have games at Furman and Wofford next week. With the position they are in, they have to win at least one if not both of them. They shot the ball well enough and rebounded well enough but did not protect the ball well enough. Four players scored in double figures and the Bulldogs are showing some signs of life overall. They are dangerous in Asheville to win a game or two. VMI has now won two in a row to put themselves back into contention for the final bye. However, their schedule is not good. They go to Western Carolina, and then host Chattanooga and Samford. It is going to be a battle just to get to seven wins, much less eight. However, they have started making shots suddenly. Phillip Anglade is playing well, as is Marshall. Brian Brown has been red hot as well. If they keep on shooting this well, they can beat anyone in the league on the right now. Nobody wants to meet up with them in Asheville because they are so dangerous in a one game scenario.