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SoCon Tournament 2016: High Stakes For Four Teams In Asheville Saturday

SoCon Tournament 2016: A Wild Day of Quarterfinal Action

Stephen Croone Navigates Through the UNCG Defense In Furman's 80-64 Quarterfinal Win Saturday Night
Stephen Croone Navigates Through the UNCG Defense In Furman's 80-64 Quarterfinal Win Saturday Night
Photo Courtesy Furman Athletics

Noting The Wild Quarterfinals:

--Apologies for some mistakes last night. I was running on fumes and didn't get to bed until about 6 AM. What a day and it always is great to see the atmosphere and encounter friendly faces at the Southern Conference Tournament, which in my opinion is unbeatable up against any other tournament in this great land. That's one man's opinion, however.

****---Miscellaneous Note: Three of the four coaches left in the SoCon Tournament have a whopping six years of experience as head coaches: Niko Medved (4th yr at Furman); Matt McCall (1st yr at Chattanooga); Steve Forbes (1st yr at ETSU). Larry Hunter on the other hand, has 680 wins in 36 years. So, combined, the three other coaches in the semifinals boast one-sixth the coaching experience Larry Hunter has on the sidelines for WCU.

GAME 1 No.1 Chattanooga 59, No.8 Samford 54

--Chattanooga sweeps the season series 3-0 against local rival Samford and fights off a tough challenge from the Bulldogs in a 59-54 win in a game that featured two coaches with ties to national title winning program out of the SEC. Samford's Christen Cunningham scored a game-high 12 points and had a pair of rebounds and a steal to lead the Bulldogs in the losing effort.

--With the loss, Samford concludes its season with a 14-19 overall record, while Chattanooga notches its 27th win of the season, improving to 27-5 overall to move on to the semifinal round of the Southern Conference Tournament for the first time since 2010, and the Mocs improved to 23-14 all-time in quarterfinal games. The Mocs are 17-5 overall in semifinal contests all-time, facing off against Western Carolina into tomorrow's first men's semifinal contest slated for 5 p.m.

--Winners of a league-best 10 Southern Conference crowns, the Mocs will be looking to lift the trophy for the first time since 2009, winning the league crown in Chattanooga, knocking off College of Charleston (80-69) in the title game at McKenzie Arena to lift the crown. The Mocs have now won 27 games on the season, which is tied for the most in school history behind only the 1981-82 and 1976-77 Mocs teams, which also posted 27 victories. A win Sunday night would set a new single-season mark for wins in a season for Chattanooga

--The Mocs were led in the win over Samford by standout Tre McLean, who was the one of three Mocs players in double figures in the win over Samford, as he poured in 16 points, six boards, two blocks and a pair of steals. Joining him in double figures were Duke Etheridge, who had a double-double, with 13 points and 12 boards, while Dee Oldham added 12 off the bench. UTC's bench held a 30-21 edge in the game, and it proved a big stat in the victory for UTC.

--Chattanooga snapped a five-game losing streak in its first game in the tournament, surviving to get a 59-54 win over the No.9 Samford in the first game of the day.

GAME 2: NO. 5  WESTERN CAROLINA 88, WOFFORD 83 (2OTs)

--For the first time since the 2012 meeting between Western Carolina and Davidson in the Southern Conference title game, the two teams found their way into multiple overtimes before the Catamounts moved to 8-4 at the US Cellular Arena since 2012, with an 88-83 double-overtime win over Wofford to end the Terriers two-straight title runs and Southern Conference Tournament winning streak at six games.

--It marked the seventh time in the past eight seasons the two programs have met in the Southern Conference Tournament, including having met in each of the past three tournaments. The Catamounts came into the day with a 2-5 record in tournament play against the Terriers, but ended it with a 3-5 mark against Western all-time in the SoCon Tournament, as the Catamounts got a career-high 32 points to lead Western to its 16th victory of the season and ensured the Catamounts a spot in the SoCon's final four for the sixth time in the past seven seasons dating back to the 2010 tournament.

--Western Carolina has now dispatched the reigning league tournament champions three times since 2012, handling Wofford twice (2012 and '16), as well as knocking out No. 1 Davidson, 99-97, in overtime in 2014.

--Since joining the Southern Conference in 1976-77, Western Carolina has taken part in 10 overtime games in Southern Conference Tournament play.

--Mike Brown became the second player in as many seasons to score 30 points in a game for the Catamounts in the Southern Conference Tournament, as he posted 34 in the win over Wofford. Last season, in a quarterfinal win, which also came in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 game, Frank Sinclair poured in a SoCon Tournament high 31 points to help the Catamounts down No. 4 East Tennessee State in the quarterfinal round.

--Wofford finishes its season with a losing mark (15-17) for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign, when the Terriers were 13-19 to complete the campaign.

--It was the final game in a Black and Gold uniform for All-SoCon guard Spencer Collins, who finished out his career with five points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field from for the Easley, S.C., product. It certainly was not a performance indicative of the type of player he is and career he has had. For his career, Collins poured in 1,696-career points to rank ninth all-time in school history.

--Meanwhile, Fletcher Magee had one of the best rookie campaigns in a Black and Gold jersey in quite sometime, finishing his first season with a single-season school-record mark of 92.5% knocking down 86-of-93 shots from the free throw line.

--Magee was sensation from three point land this season, connecting on 47.9% (91-of-190) from downtown, finishing just two percentage points behind the former great Matt Mayes, who canned 48.1% of his threes in 1986-87. The last team to knock Wofford out in its opening game (quarterfinal or first round) was Georgia Southern in 2013, as the Eagles easily dispatched the Terriers, 60-44. Magee finished out his final game of his freshman season by posting 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field and 6-for-11 from three. Justin Gordon, who also suited up for the final time for Wofford, added 18 points, while junior point guard Eric Garcia chipped in 16 to round out the scoring efforts for the Terriers.

--A dynasty ends? Since the start of the 2007-08 season, Wofford has an overall record of 165-121, while posting a conference mark 106-55, not including Southern Conference Tournaments.

Torrion Brummitt finished another strong effort for the Catamounts, posting 24 points and 15 boards to help the Catamounts secure a semifinal spot. It was part of a trend that saw the Catamounts dominate the boards to the tune of a 44-32 disparity.

TODAY'S FIRST SEMIFINAL: Chattanooga (27-5) vs. Western Carolina (16-16)

--Chattanooga and Western Carolina, who will meet in the first semifinal on Sunday, have met just seven times before in Southern Conference Tournament play, with Chattanooga holding a commanding 6-1 lead in that overall series of meetings. The two haven't met in Southern Conference Tournament play since 2000, when the likes of Jarvis and Jonas Hayes took on the Mocs, but Oliver Morton and Chattanooga posted a 90-75 win in an opening round clash against the Catamounts in Greenville at the BI-LO Center. The Mocs and Catamounts also met in that epic 1995 Southern Conference title game, as Western led by as much as 17 points with a little under 10 to play only to see Brandon Born, Chad Copeland and Mack McCarthy's Mocs turn it on for a 63-61 win in Asheville.

CHATTANOOGA VS. WESTERN CAROLINA SERIES IN SOCON TOURNAMENT (6-1 Chattanooga leads)

2000--CHATTANOOGA 90, WESTERN CAROLINA 65

1995--CHATTANOOGA 63, WESTERN CAROLINA 61--(Title Game In Asheville)--Chattanooga champions

1991--CHATTANOOGA 84, WESTERN CAROLINA 83 (In Asheville)

1989--CHATTANOOGA 72, WESTERN CAROLINA 63 (In Asheville)

1987--WESTERN CAROLINA 73, CHATTANOOGA 72 (In Asheville)

1983--CHATTANOOGA 77, WESTERN CAROLINA 75--Chattanooga Champions

1981--CHATTANOOGA 79, WESTERN CAROLINA 70--Chattanooga Champions

--For the first time since 1987, the Southern Conference has now multiple games go into overtime for just the fourth time in the 96th edition of the Southern Conference Tournament that the game has had multiple overtime games. The only other four times it has happened in Southern Conference history is 1965, 1987, 1985 and 2016. Three of those tournaments that have featured two overtimes in them have taken place in Asheville.

--When Chattanooga and Western Carolina square off in tournament play on Saturday evening, it will be the most wins a team has had since the Catamounts faced a 26-win Wofford club last season. The Catamounts also faced a 25-3 Davidson team in the 1996 tournament, a 26-2 College of Charleston team in 1999 in a semifinal clash, and a 24-win Chattanooga team in 1983. The Mocs' 27 wins tie a school record set by the 1981-82 team in the Scenic City under Murray Arnold. Western also faced a Wofford team with 25 wins in the 2010 SoCon Tournament.

NO. 2 EAST TENNESSEE STATE 81, NO. 7 MERCER 65

--East Tennessee State calmly dispatched its former Atlantic Sun rival, and ended Mercer's four year run of at least making the semifinal round of a conference tournament, and with its eighth loss in its final nine games, it's likely not going to see the Bears in any of the four college basketball postseason tournament, as they have enjoyed in the past.

--Mercer concludes Bob Hoffman's eighth season at the helm of the program with a 19-14 overall record and will now await its postseason fate, which likely will not come to fruition.

--East Tennessee State posted its first win back in as a member of the Southern Conference Tournament, re-joining just in time for the 2014-15 season, which saw the Bucs, who carried the No. 5 seed to Asheville last season, fall to Western Carolina, 67-61, in overtime. Prior to Saturday night's win over Mercer, East Tennessee State's last win in the Southern Conference Tournament came back in a first-round matchup in 2005 at McKenzie Arena, when the Tim Smith-led Bucs downed Furman, 87-84, in what was the final Southern Conference Tournament for ETSU before moving to the Sun Belt. ETSU would bow out in the quarterfinals to eventual champions and bitter rivals Chattanooga, 77-70, in what was then the final Southern Conference game for the Bucs. A win over Furman and a Mocs win over Western Carolina could set up another similar scenario.

--The Bucs are under the direction of first-year head coach Steve Forbes, who has put together as talented a team as any in the SoCon, and they should why in the 16-point win Saturday evening, moving the Bucs to 22-10 on the season, which included an impressive 14-4 Southern Conference mark.

--Leading the way for ETSU in the win Ge'Lawn Guyn's 25 points, while backcourt mate T.J. Cromer added 17 points, as the Bucs thrilled the Asheville, pro-Bucs crowd with their shooting and overall above the rim style of play. Guyn went just 6-for-16 from the field, but was a perfect 9-for-9 from the charity stripe in the victory. Cromer and Guyn combined to connect on eight of the team's 11 three pointers, and were a collected 8-of-14 from long range. The two combined for 45 of the Bucs' 81 points.

--Mercer got a strong performance from senior point guard Phillip Leonard, likely playing for the final time for the Bears, leading three Bears in double figures in the contest, with 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 1-of-1 from three. Demetre Rivers and Ethan Stair added 11 and 10 points, respectively in the loss.

--East Tennessee State has won nine tournament titles in its rich basketball history, with six of those coming on the SoCon hardwood. Much like Wofford did the past two campaigns, the Bucs were able to do in back-to-back seasons in 2002-03 and 2003-04, with stars like Tim Smith, Zakee Wadood, Ben Rhoda and Jerome Fields. The first time around, the Bucs won four-straight in a dynasty that ranks as one of college basketball's truly great stories, with the likes of college dunk champion Calvin Talford, leading assist man and three-point field goal percentage leader Keith "Mister"81 Jennings and Greg Dennis all leading the way to four-straight SoCon crowns from 1989-92, going an amazing 12-0 in league tournament play. The Bucs also got NCAA invites twice in the A-Sun, claiming tournament crowns in both 2009 and 2010.

No. 3 FURMAN 80, No. 6 UNCG 64

--Furman brought an abrupt end to UNCG's five-game winning streak and season as a whole, posting what was a lopsided 80-64 win over the Spartans on Saturday night, moving to 3-1 in the league tournament all-time and in the process, avenging a 66-65 heartbreaker in 2010 at the Bojangles Coliseum.

--Furman's Stephen Croone showed precisely why he was the SoCon's Player of the Year, with another strong performance from Devin Sibley, as the dynampic backcourt duo posted 20 points apiece to match ETSU's most decisive 16-point of the first two days of the tournament. Croone has reached double figures in 86 of his last 90 games in his career, and with his 20 point effort Saturday night, surpassed former Paladin great Jerry Smith for fifth on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,890 points.

--Croone was able to knock down 7-of-11 shots from the field and 3-for-6 from three, while going 3-of-4 at the line. Sibley was able to chip in 20 points on 6-of-15 from the field, 1-of-5 from three and 7-of-8 at the line. Sophomore Geoff Beans must know it's March because he came alive once again off the bench for the Paladins, pouring in 14 points, with 12 of those points coming on a 4-for-6 performance from long range.

--Talented Spartan forwards Kayel Locke and RJ White finished with 16 and 10 points apiece, respectively, to lead UNCG in the losing effort. The Spartans conclude their season with a 13-19 mark.

--With its advancement into the semifinal round of the Southern Conference Tournament semifinals for a second-straight season, it marks the first time since 1988-91 that the Paladins have it to the SoCon's final four in back-to-back seasons.Since that 1990-91 season, the Paladins are just 2-6 in semifinal matchups over the, but as well all know,it isn't to win your conference tile. Will find out just happens Saturday night at Bon Seucours Wellness Arena.

QUICK NOTE ON FURMAN VS. ETSU:

The Bucs and Paladins have met four times in Southern Conference Tournament play, with the Paladins sporting just a 1-3 mark all-time mark against the Bucs in the league's postseason. The lone Furman win over East Tennessee State came back in the 1980 SoCon Tournament (93-81), with the win leading to Furman's last SoCon title some 36 years ago.

Tip Times For Today, Mar 6, 2016

No. 1 Chattanooga (27-5) vs. No.5 Western Carolina (16-16)--5 p.m.

No. 2 ETSU (22-10) vs. No. 3 Furman (18-14), 7:30 approx

More on these two games coming up tomorrow...Stay tuned.