Mercer 62, Samford 61
Player of the Game: Phillip Leonard made a runner with under ten seconds remaining to give the Bears the one point road win. He scored just eight points, had three rebounds, two assists and a steal. But he scored the biggest two of the game.
Stat of the Game: Samford made just 6 of 12 from the free throw line. If the Bulldogs made 8 of 12 free throws, they win this game, and that would have been just 67% from the free throw line. The Bulldogs made a much higher percentage of their free throws during their five game winning streak. They certainly could have used a little bit better last night.
What It All Means: For Samford, the Bulldogs had no one score in double figures. They go to UNCG and VMI in their final two games, but both of those could be wins for this club, and if they are, then they still have a chance to get the final bye if VMI loses out. The Bulldogs have lost three straight games, but are still playing as well as anyone in the bottom half of the conference, outside of possibly VMI and UNCG. This club is coming. No one will want to play them in Asheville this year, and next year should be an even better season. For the Bears, this was an escape that helped to clinch the number three seed for them. Nothing they do this week can change their seed in Asheville. They are the only team completely locked in to their seed. Still, these last two games matter to them. They host Wofford on Thursday with a chance to prove that they can beat one of the league's best that night. Then they host ETSU, a team that beat them by a point in Johnson City earlier this year. This is an important week for Mercer to prove where they fit in this conference. Mercer needed to get this road win. It was a quality win for this club.
VMI 113, Western Carolina 111 (2OT)
Player of the Game: It is hard to do better than Julian Eleby. He wound up with 43 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. He made 11 of 22 from the field and 8 of 15 from three, while knocking down 13 of 15 from the free throw line. Eleby made a number of clutch shots late in regulation and overtime as well. He was truly a star on Saturday.
Stat of the Game: The Keydets made 20 of 46 from three point range. Since the game went to double overtime, it is not quite as impressive to knock down twenty threes. Still, VMI made a big number of threes and that is how the biggest reason they came up with the win.
What It All Means: For Western Carolina, they remain a bit of a mystery. Since beating Mercer at Mercer, they have now lost two straight games, both in Cullowhee. This team is 8-8 in SoCon play, and now can kiss good bye any chance of catching Mercer for the three seed. The Catamounts now have a much bigger concern- being caught from behind by VMI for the five seed. The Catamounts need to find some measure of consistency before they get to Asheville. However, they have done this before down the stretch, only to have a remarkable run in the SoCon Tournament. Do not count this team out. They have the shooters to be able to do that, as evidenced by James Sinclair scoring 40 points. For VMI, with Chattanooga and Samford coming up, they still have a shot at the four seed, believe it or not. If they win out and ETSU and Western Carolina lose out, they get the four seed. Who saw that coming? Regardless, they have to win at least one to keep the six seed in tact. They could not get it if they lose both games. Still, VMI has suddenly won three games in a row and is one of the league's hottest teams. When this team shoots the ball well, as they have been recently, they are a very tough out for any team. It was the second half against Wofford that everything turned around and got better for this club. We'll see where they are this week in Lexington.
Chattanooga 67, ETSU 59
Player of the Game: Rico White, on Senior Night, lead the Mocs with 20 points, including huge shots in the second half. He made 4 of 7 from three and had three rebounds, two assists and two steals. He also knocked down 8 of 9 from the free throw line. White was on top of his game in his final home game.
Stat of the Game: ETSU shot 33.3% in eFG. That means they were quite simply not making shots. They were ice cold, particularly in the second half. The Bucs built up a halftime lead, but couldn't do anything in the second half and that was the reason the Mocs were able to pull out the win.
What It All Means: The Bucs looked good for a half, and considering that Rashawn Rembert was seriously limited by illness, this was a good showing. The Bucs are trying to hold onto the number four or five seed though. VMI is gaining on them from behind. They go to The Citadel and Mercer in their next two games, which will not make this easy. The Bucs need at least one more win and maybe two more to avoid falling to the six seed. That game at The Citadel is huge. Jalen Riley was brilliant, scoring 31 points. A complete ETSU in Asheville will be a difficult out. The Mocs kept their hopes alive for the number one seed and they also locked down the number two seed. Chattanooga was down by eight points at halftime and fought back with a solid second half. Justin Tuoyo really changes things defensively, and Casey Jones is a good talent. The Mocs got to 20 wins for the first time in ten years. Chattanooga is in good shape and a real contender for the SoCon title.
Wofford 78, The Citadel 52
Player of the Game: Lee Skinner scored 13 points with seven rebounds and four assists on 6 of 7 shooting. Skinner continues to see his play improve down the stretch and he had a very memorable Senior Night.
Stat of the Game: Terriers four turnovers. The Bulldogs are not a good defensive team and they don't force a lot of turnovers. Still, four turnovers in forty minutes is impressive. The Terriers did just that. Very impressive, indeed.
What It All Means: The Bulldogs were no match for an angry Wofford team. They host ETSU and Western Carolina in their next two games, and were eliminated from the final bye race by the Keydets win over Western Carolina. The Bulldogs did not play well, and saw their chances done. Still, this season has been an improvement for The Citadel and they are a much better team than a year ago. In Asheville, their offense will be tough to handle. Wofford now just needs to win one of their last two at Mercer and at Furman to lock down the regular season title. The Terriers avenged one of their two losses and became the second team in the conference to defeat every team at least once (Chattanooga being the other). The Terriers played hungry and played angry. When they do that against a SoCon team like The Citadel, they are almost impossible to beat. This was a complete performance by a Terriers team that had been waiting for revenge.
UNCG 84, Furman 49
Player of the Game: RJ White. This game was all about White's start. He made four threes in four possessions for the Spartans...which is something he should probably not do. It was his shots that put this game away early. He scored 18 points with nine rebounds, one assist, two steals and a block. He really filled up the stat sheet.
Stat of the Game: Furman had a 40.2 eFG%, while the Spartans shot 64.2 eFG%. The Spartans really could not miss and Furman was simply not making shots. It was really an unbelievable show by the Spartans all the way around.
What It All Means: For Furman, they are really struggling now. They are officially in a tailspin. They didn't rebound, didn't shoot, and didn't defend Sunday. Once things started going south, they could not recover. They have to host Western Carolina and Wofford, so it is getting more and more difficult to imagine how they are going to win another game. They need something positive to happen just to start going well heading to Asheville. Things are looking desperate. This team will be better next year with a year's experience, but things are not getting better as this year goes on. The Spartans are just two games out of the final bye now. If they win both of their final games against Samford and Chattanooga and VMI loses both of their final two games, they will earn the final bye. This is a real chance for UNCG to do something special at the end of the year. They could not miss shots today and once one fell, confidence roared for this club. This is the second time in six games that they have won by 29 points or more. That is truly impressive. This club is incredibly dangerous in Asheville. No one will want to play them.