Behind a big Thanksgiving weekend, East Tennessee has taken the top spot in the Southern Conference power rankings. Here’s how things look as the non-conference schedule heats up:
1. East Tennessee State
East Tennessee State won the Sanford Pentagon Showcase in Sioux Falls with wins over Milwaukee (86-62), South Dakota State (71-59), and UC Irvine (72-66). The win over South Dakota State stands out as one of the best non-conference victories in the SoCon so far.
Wrapping up the Milwaukee Game: ETSU opened the tournament on Friday night against Milwaukee, and the Bucs were able to coast behind six double-figure scorers. Hanner Mosquere-Perea led the way for ETSU with 15 points, while AJ Merriweather (13 pts), David Burrell (12 pts), Devontavius Payne (11 pts), Tevin Glass (10 pts), and T.J Cromer (10 pts) provided support. After leading by just seven at the break, the Bucs turned up the defensive intensity to take control, highlighted by an 11-1 run.
Wrapping up the South Dakota State game: The Bucs made it two in a row the next day, leading wire-to-wire. Isaac Banks posted 22 points and 11 rebounds, leading the Blue and Gold to their most impressive win of the young season. ETSU made 23 baskets on an impressive 20 assists in the game, with nine of those helpers coming courtesy of guard T.J. Cromer. The Bucs would also play another stellar game defensively to hold the Jackrabbits at bay, limiting SDSU to just 37 percent shooting for the game.
Wrapping up the UC Irvine game: The Bucs completed the tourney sweep Sunday afternoon, sneaking by the Anteaters. Similar to the tournament opener, the Bucs used a well-balanced attack to get the win, as three players finished in double figures, led by junior guard T.J. Cromer’s 15 points. Joining Cromer in double digits in scoring were junior guard Desonta Bradford and senior post Tevin Glass, who completed the contest with 14 and 11 points, respectively. Trailing by eight with 17:37 left, the Bucs turned up the pressure on defense, forging a 17-6 run to take the lead on a Julian Walters triple with 11 minutes left. The Anteaters then tied the game twice, however the Bucs never trailed again.
The Week Ahead For ETSU: The Bucs should be 7-1 by this time next week, with games against a pair of Division II foes coming up: Lees-McRae on Dec. 1 and Limestone on Dec. 4.
The Mocs played just once this week, going on the road to defeat improving Atlantic Sun member Kennesaw State.
Wrapping up the Kennesaw State Game: Chattanooga got a second-straight 20-point game from senior point guard Greg Pryor, as the Mocs coasted to an 88-71 win over the Owls Saturday afternoon. Pryor, who finished with a game-high 21 points, connected on 6-of-11 shots from the field, including 2-4 from three and 7-8 from the line. He was one of six Mocs in double figures, as Tre’ McClean and Jonathan Burroughs-Cook added 14 points apiece, while Justin Tuoyo added 13 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.
The Week Ahead For Chattanooga: Chattanooga has a pair of Sun Belt foes on the docket. The Mocs will be on the road to face the league’s newest member, Coastal Carolina, on Tuesday night. Cliff Ellis’ Chanticleers were a CIT participant last year and were a perennial contender in the Big South. On Saturday, the Mocs will be back in the friendly confines looking to avenge what was one of their handful of regular-season losses last season against Louisiana Monroe. The Warhawks downed Chattanooga 64-54 in Monroe early last December.
3. UNC Greensboro
UNC Greensboro did not do much feasting this week, but did take down Belmont-Abbey.
Wrapping up the Belmont-Abbey Game: UNC Greensboro made easy work of Belmont-Abbey, posting a 95-54 win a day after Thanksgiving. The Spartans outscored their Division II visitors 52-12 in the paint, and were able to get a team-leading 17 points from Francisco Alonso in the win. 15 of Alonso’s 17 points came on shots from beyond the arc on 5-7 shooting. He was one of four Spartans in double figures, along with Jordy Kuiper (11 pts), Marvin Smith (11 pts), and Malik Massey (10 pts).
The Week Ahead For UNCG: UNCG returns to the floor on Tuesday night to face North Carolina A&T in a rivalry contest, and will then return to Fleming Gym the following Saturday to take on Liberty. The Spartans and Aggies will play for the 18th time in series history, with the Aggies holding an 11-6 all-time advantage. North Carolina A&T won last season’s clash between the two, posting a 77-68 win. The Spartans will also face the Liberty Flames for the 18th time, but it will mark the first time the two have met in 12 years. The Flames hold a narrow 9-8 series edge, but the Spartans posted a 74-69 win back on Dec. 18, 2004.
Mercer went 1-1 on the week, dropping a tough Savannah Invitational title game decision to Akron.
Wrapping up the East Carolina game: The Bears were able to move on to the title game on Sunday afternoon by virtue of a stellar performance on Friday, as the Bears beat East Carolina, 70-66. Holland connected on a triple, Rivers registered a crucial steal, and Jordan Strawberry knocked down a pair of key free throws, as the Bears posted a dramatic four-point win over the Pirates. Holland posted a career-high 26 points.
Wrapping up the Akron game: Isaiah Johnson’s basket with 1:32 remaining gave Akron a 65-63 lead, and the Zips limited the Bears to just one shot in the final minute. Johnson finished with 19 points on 7-11 shooting. The Bears were paced by Ria’n Holland, who posted 17 points, while center Desmond Ringer and guard Demetre Rivers poured in 16 and 12 points, respectively, in the setback.
The Power Rankings:
- East Tennessee State (5-1)
- Chattanooga (3-2)
- UNC Greensboro (4-2)
- Mercer (4-2)
- Furman (3-3)
- Samford (3-2)
- The Citadel (3-3)
- Wofford (1-5)
- Western Carolina (2-4)
- VMI (1-4)