Wofford 76, Mercer 72
Player of the Game: Spencer Collins poured in 26 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the floor and 8 of 9 free throw shooting. He also made 4 of 6 from three point range. Collins has been kind of quiet at times this year- not Thursday.
Stat of the Game: The Terriers had an eFG% of 64.8. They shot the ball incredibly well in this one, making up for the first time they played the Bears and could not make shots. This was the offensive performance that was expected from the Terriers and it was very impressive.
What It All Means: For Mercer, this one hurts. While they played Wofford close twice, they were unable to finish either time and now are 1-3 against Chattanooga and Wofford, with their one win coming in overtime against the Mocs at home. The offense was much better this time than against Wofford the first time, but the defense was not good. The Bears do not have one scorer that they can rely on to get a shot when they need it, and that can hurt them. They also had no answer inside for Lee Skinner on Thursday, not to mention Collins big game. The Bears are the third seed, but I would say at this point, they look like they are clearly third on that list of three teams. The Terriers locked down the number one seed with this win, and they played well, especially offensively. They were so efficient, and they survived a couple of big runs by the Bears and did what they needed to do to win. The Terriers are the favorites to win in Asheville by a nose. They go to Furman on Saturday to wrap up the regular season. Collins, Skinner and Karl Cochran seem to be getting things going at just the right time for this club.
The Citadel 74, ETSU 73
Player of the Game: Ashton Moore knocked down the winning shot at the buzzer, part of his 21 points, six rebounds and eleven assists. He made 5 of 10 from the floor. Moore has been the Bulldogs best player game after game.
Stat of the Game: The Citadel made 18 of 18 from the free throw line. That was critical for the Bulldogs, as they needed every one of the freebies they could get.
What It All Means: This Bucs team is just so puzzling. They looked great in the first half against Chattanooga and then fell apart. In this one, they just couldn't ever get anything going consistently. Yes, they were ahead thanks to Jalen Riley with just a few seconds left, but it just wasn't enough. Still, if this team wins on Saturday at Mercer, they wrap up the four seed. A loss and a loss by Western Carolina would still get them the four seed. They can go no lower than the five seed. That's good news for the Bucs. This team is too small to be able to win consistently because their shooters have to be on, but they are still a contender because they have great guard play. The Bulldogs came up with the huge win to get their sixth conference win. This team seems to be starting to peak again...and just in time! The free throw shooting was huge, and Moore knocking down two game winners in three weeks shows that this team can win a close game. The Citadel can not get to the six seed because of their two losses to VMI, but they can get the seven seed simply by winning at home against Western Carolina on Saturday. This club has been a bit of a mystery, but they are playing good basketball right now, knocking down shots, which means, just like last year, they could spring an upset or two in Asheville.
Chattanooga 86, VMI 82 (2OT)
Player of the Game: Casey Jones scored 17 points with ten rebounds and three blocks. He made 7 of 14 from the floor. He played 44 minutes and continues to make a push for SoCon Player of the Year.
Stat of the Game: VMI had an eFG% of 44.1. That's not awful, but it's not good either. They shot under 40% from the floor and knocked down just six threes. The Keydets have been shooting much better during their winning streak, but just could not put the ball in the hoop tonight with enough consistency to come up with the win.
What It All Means: VMI had a shot at the four seed if they could win this one, but now are locked in to no better than the six seed. They could get as low as the seven seed with a loss to Samford and a UNCG win over Chattanooga on Saturday. This club did not shoot the ball well in this one. That can be deadly to this club that relies on knocking down shots. They defended pretty well, though they just forced thirteen turnovers. They did not rebound well and the Mocs did what it took to win the game. Phillip Anglade and Julian Eleby were very good, each scoring over 25 points. VMI is an incredibly dangerous team in Asheville, no matter who they play. The Mocs made just 12 of 24 from the free throw line, and that is the reason this game was close. They rebounded well, did not commit a lot of turnovers, and held VMI to a poor shooting night. Still, it was close. The Mocs got a win, and have the two seed locked up. They showed enough grit and determination to come up with the win as the game continued to roll through regulation and then the first overtime. They have a tough game at UNCG on Saturday that does not matter in the conference standings to the Mocs.
UNCG 81, Samford 67
Player of the Game: RJ White scored 24 points with 12 rebounds. Since he has been coming off the bench, he has been a much better player. He seems to get into the flow of the game better coming off the bench. He looks like an All SoCon type of player right now. He made 10 of 13 from the floor.
Stat of the Game: The Spartans only turned the ball over nine times against the Bulldogs pressure defense. That pressure defense has been reasonably successful against UNCG this year, but not in this one, as the Spartans did a good job protecting the ball.
What It All Means: Now there need to start being questions about Samford again. That was not a good performance. When they won five straight in the middle of conference play, the Bulldogs seemed to be coming along. Even in these last three losses, they have competed well and looked pretty good, to the point that they were a team people did not want to play in Asheville. But they did not look like that team in this one. They looked quite mediocre in this one. They did not shoot particularly well, did not defend well and did not force turnovers. This was a major disappointment for Samford. They will try to get back on the winning track Saturday against VMI. UNCG kept their chances of the bye alive with this win. They looked good doing it and continue to look like a team that is destined to be trouble in Asheville. This club is getting better all the time. They host Chattanooga on Saturday evening in the final SoCon game of the season. The Spartans have really developed in the last few weeks and are taking more advantage of their size. This club is showing more than just signs of life- they are all out alive.
Furman 53, Western Carolina 49
Player of the Game: Kris Acox scored 12 points with 17 rebounds. He had ten offensive rebounds and made 4 of 8 from the floor. Acox showed off in this one. He was a solid contributor Thursday night. If he continues to play like that and collect double doubles, this team will be tough in Asheville.
Stat of the Game: The Catamounts shot 28.0 eFG% in this one. Yikes. That is horrid. Furman wasn't much better, going 31.5 eFG%. But the Paladins solid defense and the sheer number of free throws the Paladins shot (42 to 18) was the difference in this one.
What It All Means: Western Carolina has to look at themselves and ask some real questions. One point from their starting forwards (Tucker Thompson and Torrion Brummitt) is simply unacceptable. The Catamounts have now lost three straight games after winning at Mercer and looking like they might steal the two or three seed in the SoCon Tournament. Wofford was acceptable. Double overtime loss to VMI is a little less so. This one is a little less acceptable than that. All three together is completely outside of the realm of acceptable. This team is too talented to be playing like this. They have to go to The Citadel on Saturday. The Catamounts are always dangerous in Asheville, but are not looking like a team capable of doing damage right now. Things can change between now and next Saturday, but wow. Furman had looked like a team ready for the season to be over. Now, they look like a different team. Acox really played great, and like the player I've been wanting to see. Kendrec Ferrara played reasonably well, too. Stephen Croone only knocked down 5 of 11 from the free throw line. That was the reason this game was close to begin with. Furman was the much better team on Thursday night. They are still a dangerous team, after all.