Four games highlighted the Southern Conference basketball slate Wednesday night, and with no real upsets. That said, it was one more game off the schedule and one fewer chance for teams to make up ground.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: ETSU 79, Samford 77
It seems that every game for Samford comes down to the wire. The Bulldogs are 1-3 in overtime games this season, including a 96-86 loss to ETSU in a double-overtime contest on Jan. 25.
Though Wednesday night’s game at Freedom Hall did not go overtime, the game came down to the wire. ETSU trailed by seven points with five minutes remaining, but mounted a rally down the stretch to remain within a a game-and-a-half of the top spot in the Southern Conference standings. The sixth-straight home win improved the Bucs to 21-6 overall and 11-3 in league action. Meanwhile, Samford dropped its fourth-straight game to fall to 15-12 (6-8 SoCon).
The Bucs were able to get a crucial offensive rebound from Hanner Mosquera-Perea and a put-back from Tevin Glass to take a 73-72 lead with 1:29 left. On the ensuing possession, Samford’s Alex Thompson provided an answer with a three-pointer from the corner to put the Bulldogs back on top.
ETSU took the lead for good when Mosquera-Perea grabbed an offensive rebound and went straight back up, giving the Bucs a 78-77 lead with 10 seconds remaining.
Samford had one last shot to steal the crucial road win, but freshman guard Josh Sharkey stepped on the baseline before the Bulldogs could get a shot off.
Stars of the Game:
ETSU placed three players in double figures, but it was the dirty work on the offensive boards by Mosquera-Perea and Glass down the stretch which ultimately proved to be the difference.
Glass finished with 16 points and five boards, and Mosquera-Perea added 10 points and six rebounds. TJ Cromer tied Glass for team-high scoring honors and added four assists and a steal.
Samford’s Demetrius Denzel-Dyson led all scorers with 21 points — his seventh 20-plus-point game this season. He did most of his damage at the charity stripe, knocking down 12 of 17 shots from the free throw line.
Stat of the Game:
The Bucs were strong on the boards, posting a 31-27 advantage overall and 12-6 on the offensive glass. That led to a sizable 16-5 margin in second-change points. The Bucs also held a 38-24 advantage in points in the paint.
What We Learned:
The margin for error in this league is small, and in Wednesday night’s game, it was another case of one team just making the plays it had to down the stretch. We learned that ETSU has a little bit of that “killer instinct” that we have seen out of other championship contenders in the SoCon this season.
Odds and Ends:
In other league action, Furman maintained its hold on first place, as Devin Sibley scored 22 points and Kris Acox added 18 points, 14 rebounds, and four steals, to lead the Paladins to their first win at Western Carolina since 2012, 74-62.
The win marked Furman’s 20th of the season, and just the third time since 1990-91 that it has reached that mark. The Paladins’ 10 true road wins match a school record and their 10-game winning streak is their best since the 1979-80 season.
Elsewhere, Chattanooga had to fight, claw, and scratch its way to a 74-68 road win over VMI. Tre’ McLean led the Mocs, scoring 19 points and connecting on a career-high five triples.
Senior point guard Greg Pryor (16 pts) and fellow senior guard Casey Jones (12 pts) also scored in double figures for Chattanooga.
VMI’s QJ Peterson, who scored 40 points in the first meeting between these teams, was limited to just 12 this time.
UNC Greensboro wore black uniforms for the first time in program history, and that seemed to do the trick, as the Spartans put together one of their best performances of the season en route to a 74-55 win over Wofford at home.
The Spartans were stingy on defense, holding the Terriers to a season-low 30.8 percent from the field. Senior point guard Diante Baldwin led three Spartans in double figures with a game-high 24 points.
The Southern Conference regular season race could be decided this weekend, with the four top teams in the league facing each other. Chattanooga will host East Tennessee State at McKenzie Arena in a battle of the second- and third-place teams. The Bucs claimed the first meeting this season, taking a 76-71 win at Freedom Hall back on Jan. 28.
The Bucs have not swept Chattanooga in a season since beating the Mocs three times in 2003-04. It also marks the last time the Bucs tasted victory in the Scenic City, posting an 82-80 win at The Roundhouse back on Feb. 9, 2004.
In the other key matchup on Saturday, UNCG travels to Furman to meet the first-place Paladins. Furman claimed a 73-67 win over UNCG in Greensboro on Jan. 28. The Paladins have won school-record 16-straight home Southern Conference games.
- Furman (20-8, 13-2 SoCon)
- ETSU (21-6, 11-3 SoCon)
- Chattanooga (19-7, 10-4 SoCon)
- UNCG (19-8, 10-4 SoCon)
- Wofford (13-15, 8-7 SoCon)
- Mercer (12-15, 6-8 SoCon)
- Samford (15-12, 6-8 SoCon)
- VMI (6-19, 3-11 SoCon)
- The Citadel (9-18, 2-12 SoCon)
- Western Carolina (7-20, 2-12 SoCon)