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SoCon Tournament: Samford and The Citadel move on

Parks and Denzel-Dyson shine in victories by The Citadel and Samford

NCAA Basketball: Citadel at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

No. 9 The Citadel 78, No. 8 Western Carolina 72

Southern Conference Freshman of the Year Preston Parks recorded his 12th game with 20 or more points this season, as No. 9 The Citadel bested No. 8 Western Carolina, 78-72, in the opening game of the General Shale Southern Conference Tournament Friday night at US Cellular Arena.

Parks posted 27 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including 4-of-9 from three-point range in leading the Bulldogs to their first Southern Conference Tournament win since 2014.

Coincidentally, with the win, the Bulldogs not only improve to 12-20, but will also take on the top-seeded UNC Greensboro Spartans in today’s first quarterfinal matchup, slated for noon. The Catamounts close out their 2017 season with a 9-23 mark.

Parks was also part of an impressive 18-for-20 performance from the Bulldogs at the foul stripe, as he connected on 7-of-8 attempts in the contest.

Parks was joined in double figures by forward Zane Najdawi (16 pts) and Ezekiel Balogun (10 pts). Western Carolina placed four in double-figures, led by 25 points from junior guard Haboubacar Mutombo, who connected on 10-of-18 from the field, including 5-for-10 from three-point land. The Catamounts also got double-doubles from guard Devin Peterson and forward Marc Gosselin. Peterson finished with 14 points and dished out 11 helpers, while Gosselin added 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The game featured 12 ties and 10 lead changes before the Bulldogs eventually took control of the game for good with a little over six minutes remaining.

The Bulldogs proceeded to mount an 8-0 run, book-ended by a pair of foul shots from Parks and Mutombo, giving the Bulldogs a 69-62 lead with 4:41 remaining. The Catamounts would cut the game to a bucket once more in the contest following another triple from Mutombo with 2:42 remaining. However, the Bulldogs were able to close out the game with a 6-2 run, sealing the win.

No. 7 Samford 79, No. 10 VMI 61

On the strength of its stingy defense, No. 7 Samford held No. 10 VMI to just 28.1% shooting from the field en route to a 79-61 opening round win in the second game of the evening.

With the win, the Bulldogs move on to the SoCon quarterfinals for a second-straight season, facing No. 2 Furman Saturday night at approximately 6 p.m. Samford improved its mark to 18-14, while VMI concluded its 2016-17 campaign at 6-24.

The Bulldogs were led by four players in double figures, with Demetrius Denzel-Dyson leading the way with 17 points, while Christen Cunningham added 15. Both Wyatt Walker and Alex Thompson rounded out the Samford players in double figures with 13 points apiece. QJ Peterson, who led the Southern Conference during the regular-season in scoring at 19.4 PPG, led all scorers with 26 points in the loss.

The Keydets trailed by as many as 22 points in the second half, however, Peterson and the Keydets would make the game at least a little interesting down the stretch, using a 10-0 run capped by a Peterson triple to cut Samford’s lead to 11, at 65-54, with 5:26 remaining. However, that was as close as the Keydets would get the rest of the way.