The Chattanooga (3-2) Mocs continued their strong play Saturday with a 75-64 win over Central Arkansas to reach the title game of the Maui Invitational Mainland Sunday at West Point. However, the Mocs could not stop a red-hot Arkansas State club out of the Sun Belt in Sunday’s title game, as the Red Wolves claimed a 73-67 win in the title game.
Though Chattanooga has only lost eight games in the past two seasons, exactly two of those losses have come against Sun Belt teams, including a 64-54 setback at Lousiana Monroe last season. The Mocs will return to the hardwood next Saturday to face Atlantic Sun member Kennesaw State. Tip-off is slated for 2:30 p.m. at the KSU Convocation Center.
The Mocs have gotten out to a fast start in 2016-17, with wins over Tennessee, Hiwassee, and Central Arkansas, with their only setbacks to Sun Belt favorite Arkansas State and No. 6 North Carolina. Despite two early setbacks to quality foes, the Mocs sit atop the first installment of the SoCon power rankings.
CHATTANOOGA SUPERLATIVES: Justin Tuoyo averages 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds through the first four games to lead the Mocs. Tuoyo is the SoCon’s top rim protector as well, with 15 blocks.
East Tennessee State (2-1) got its first real test of the season on Sunday against UNC Wilmington, and fell 68-59. Despite the setback, the Bucs have talent at all five positions and appeared to have reloaded this season rather than having to rebuild. Their two wins have come over Detroit and Fordham.
BUC SUPERLATIVES: East Tennessee State has two of the premier newcomers in the league, with the additions of Hanner Mosquera-Perea and David Burrell. Burrell led the Bucs in the 96-59 win over Fordham to open the campaign, while Mosquera-Perea has proven to be a force on the defensive end. Leading returning scorer T.J. Cromer has had a strong start to the season, ranking second in the SoCon in scoring with 21.5 ppg through the first two victories. Offensively, the Bucs are once again one of the most high-octane teams, averaging 101.5 points through the first two games, before a lighter effort on Sunday. Another player who has been impressive is 6-2 newcomer Devontavious Payne. Payne dropped 18 on Detroit.
UNC Greensboro (2-2) has gotten off to a strong start, posting a 3-2 record out of the gates, including a 65-54 win over North Dakota State Saturday in the High Point University Classic. The Spartans have lost games to No. 7 Virginia (51-76) and High Point (56-63), and have beaten Presbyterian (61-42), Navy (72-59), and the aforementioned NDSU.
SPARTAN SUPERLATIVES: UNCG has gotten a trio of impressive wins to open the season, including Saturday’s win over NDSU. The Spartans were led on Saturday by Francisco Alonso’s 16 points. Alonso was one of the top freshman shooting guards in the Southern Conference last season, and went into Sunday averaging 11.5 ppg. The other half of that dynamic backcourt is Diante Baldwin, who leads the team in scoring, averaging 12.8 PPG. Baldwin has also gotten it done on the defensive end, as he ranks second in the SoCon in steals per game, averaging 2.8.
The Furman (2-2) Paladins scored maybe the win of the week, when they handed Conference USA favorite UAB its first home loss since 2014, snapping a 26-game homecourt streak with an 84-74 win last Monday night. The Paladins followed that up with a loss at Georgia (78-84) and a 102-53 win in the home opener against Trinity. The Paladins opened the season with a 73-71 loss at Presbyterian.
FURMAN SUPERLATIVES: Furman has gotten a fast start to the season by junior guard Devin Sibley, who currently ranks seventh in the SoCon in scoring, averaging 17.7 ppg, despite not playing Saturday against Trinity. Furman’s 100-point effort in the win over Trinity marked the first time since December 2004 that the Paladins have posted 100 in a game. Furman’s Daniel Fowler scored a career-high 23 points in the win over UAB, and also enters Tuesday night’s clash with perennial Big South power UNC Asheville leading the SoCon in assists per game (6.5).
A LOOK AT UNCA: Furman will look to rebound from what was a narrow 67-65 loss to the Bulldogs last season at Kimmel Arena in Asheville. The Bulldogs, who were NCAA Tournament participants last season and winners of 22 games, will once again be among the favorites in the Big South. Tuesday night’s meeting will mark the 15th all-time matchup between the two, with the series tied at seven apiece.
Southern Conference Power Rankings:
- East Tennessee State
- UNC Greensboro
- The Citadel
- Western Carolina