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SoCon Recap: Paladins, Bucs Win Big

The Paladins and Bucs won big. The Mocs won a huge road game. The Catamounts won in overtime. Just another wild day in the SoCon.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports


Chattanooga 77, Wofford 68

ETSU 88, VMI 51

Furman 77, Samford 57

Western Carolina 83, UNCG 77 (OT)


ETSU 3-0

Furman 3-1

Chattanooga 3-1

Wofford 3-1

Mercer 2-1

Western Carolina 2-1

Samford 1-3

UNCG 1-3

The Citadel 0-3

VMI 0-4

Game of the Night: Western Carolina 83, UNCG 77 (OT)

Heading into Saturday, there were a lot of questions about the Catamounts. They had lost in a blowout to ETSU at home in their first conference game. They blew out VMI on Saturday, but everyone seems to be doing that right now. Tonight's game against UNCG was the real test for the Catamounts to see where they stood. In a game that was back and forth the whole night, the Catamounts made 56% of their threes and nearly 52% of their shots in all. That was the reason the Catamounts were able to get to 2-1 in conference. This weekend, they go on the road for the first time, heading to Samford and Chattanooga. That will tell everyone plenty about the Catamounts. Marvin Smith and Francis Alonso were great for UNCG, and the Spartans have lost back-to-back heartbreakers. Now they go to VMI on Sunday. The Spartans are good enough to contend for a bye in the SoCon, but they need to start winning, and beating VMI on the road Sunday would be huge.

Team of the Night: Chattanooga Mocs

The season was on the line for Chattanooga. That is probably overstating things a bit, but it is certainly true that when the Mocs were staring 2-2 in the face early in the second half. The team that most people thought would run away with the conference title was in a lot of trouble in Spartanburg against the two time reigning SoCon champ, Wofford. Then, the Mocs turned it around and played some of their best basketball of the season to pull away for the nine point win at Wofford. Very impressive at a critical time.

Player of the Night: Rhett Harrelson, Western Carolina.

Seems like Western Carolina is so much better when Harrelson is good. He made of 6 of 11 from three point range. He made 4 of 4 from the free throw line. He collected three assists and one rebound, while scoring 22 points. Harrelson scored just 2 against ETSU in the conference opener, but has averaged 22.5 in the two wins since then. Sure makes it look like that as Harrelson goes, so goes this Catamounts club.

Disappointment of the Night: Samford on the road.

That's two bad road losses in three road conference games for Samford. Sure, losing by 20 at Furman by itself is not terrible. After all, Chattanooga lost by 15 on Saturday at Furman. But combine it with the blowout loss at Mercer and the very disappointing final two and a half minutes against Wofford, and suddenly there are real questions about Samford. When on the road, this team just does not seem to be prepared to play the consistent solid basketball that they need to. Prior to conference play starting, the Bulldogs were a team that looked like a sure team to get a bye and a real contender for a title. Now, they look like a team lost and struggling. There is plenty of time to bounce back, and the next two games are at home (against ETSU and Western Carolina). However, until this team proves they can win on the road consistently, they are not a real threat to win a championship.

Other Thoughts

--Things are really bad for VMI right now. Yes, they nearly beat Wofford at home a week ago, but they failed there, and have been completely dominated in their other three SoCon games. They don't play again until Sunday against UNCG in Lexington. That's almost must win time for VMI if they want to salvage this season at all.

--Things were coming apart for Chattanooga against Wofford. They played poorly against Furman, and for the first twenty minutes things did not look good. Just a minute and a half into the second half, Matt McCall took a timeout. The Mocs responded with energy and focus for the first time in a game and a half and they really played well from that point forward. That timeout may have kept the Mocs regular season conference title chances from being in big trouble after just four games.

--ETSU may be the lone unbeaten, but they have played teams that are a combined 3-8 in conference play. By comparison, Chattanooga has beaten teams who are a combined 5-5 in their three wins, Wofford has beaten teams who are a combined 2-9, Furman has beaten teams who are a combined 4-8. The Bucs best win is at Western Carolina, whereas Furman beat Chattanooga, and Wofford even beat a Samford team that is supposed to be better than any team ETSU has beaten. We'll know more after the Bucs visit Samford and Chattanooga this weekend.

--Quick look ahead to Thursday. Furman tries to continue the momentum as they go to Mercer, who is hungry to avenge the semifinal loss a year ago and ETSU goes to Samford in a huge game for the young Bulldogs. This is the time for Darius Jones-Gibson to step up for the Bulldogs. Those are the two highlighted games for the night.