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SoCon Update: A look at UNC Greensboro’s big win, Mercer’s rise and more

UNCG’s James Dickey blocked a school-record eight shots in the 74-56 win over East Tennessee State
Photo courtesy of H. Scott Hoffman/Greensboro News and Record

It was a big Monday night slate for the Southern Conference, as the top two teams in the league faced each other. Meanwhile, Thursday night has a nice slate of games around the league—among them “Office Night” at Timmons Arena—which will see Furman host Chattanooga, as explored in a witty article posted by the very talented Chris Schutte.

Other games on Thursday night holding intrigue are Wofford at Western Carolina, and UNC Greensboro’s trip to The Citadel.

A Look Back at UNCG’s Big Win

In case you missed it, UNCG posted an impressive 74-56 win over league-leading East Tennessee State Monday night at the Greensboro Coliseum. The win gave the Spartans their first back-to-back 20-win seasons season joining Div. I in 1993-94. The 18-point win improved the Spartans to 20-6 overall and 11-2 in Southern Conference, and put them within a game of first-place ETSU.

The rivalry between the Bucs and Spartans has become heated over the past couple of seasons, as it has featured matchups between two of the league’s most physical, athletic and talented teams. Over the past two years, the teams have met five times, with the Spartans taking three of those contests.

So how did the Spartans end the nation’s longest winning streak?

For one, we learned that UNCG can play pretty good defense itself as the Spartans swatted away a school-record 14 shots in the contest. This was powered by 6’10 center James Dickey, who knocked away a school-record eight shots on his own. The Spartans also held the Bucs to season lows for points (56) and field goal percentage (30.3%).

The effort was enough to help earn Dickey SoCon Player of the Week honors. The talented sophomore opened his outstanding week by posting a double-double, with 11 points and 12 boards in an 80-67 win at Furman. After posting 11 points in a win at Western Carolina, he followed that up with up with eight points, seven boards and the eight blocks in the ETSU win.

Forbes Isn’t Worried

If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Steve Forbes, you’d know he isn’t easily phased by some minor adversity. He’s unflappable and probably isn’t fretting over Monday night’s setback to UNCG, as the humorous tweet above denotes.

The other tweet shows his ability to shake off a tough loss and that’s what you’d expect from the leader of a team coming off a SoCon title. At Mid-Major Madness, we appreciate his personality and humor. Is it any wonder why a kid wouldn’t want to go to ETSU to play for Forbes? He just gets it.

A loss in conference play probably isn’t all that bad for Forbes and the Bucs, considering it will only help ETSU regain focus heading into the SoCon Tournament.

Why You Should Watch UNCG at The Citadel

Despite having lost back-to-back games on the road of late, Duggar Baucom’s club returns to McAlister Field House, which has suddenly become one of the toughest places to play in the SoCon.

The Bulldogs narrowly lost a 73-71 contest a couple of weeks back to ETSU, and then put together impressive home wins over two of the SoCon’s top four teams within a 48-hour span. First came an 80-78 win over Wofford, and then came a 100-92 overtime, come-from-behind thriller over rival Furman.

UNCG won the earlier contest between the two this season in Greensboro, taking a 72-58 win back on Jan. 18.

The Spartans will have to deal with talented junior center Zane Najdawi, who has been playing as well as anyone in the SoCon as of late, coming in tied for third in the SoCon with two 30-point games this season. This includes a 37-point outing against Chattanooga a few weeks ago.

In The Citadel’s game at Samford last Saturday, the Bulldogs lost 116-103, despite connecting on 18 triples.

Break up the Bears!

Don’t look now, but Bob Hoffman has Mercer playing well at the right time. Mercer has won three straight, and those wins have come without the services of leading scorer Ria’n Holland, who remains sidelined with an injury but is expected back before the season ends.

Ross Cummings has been the player that has stepped up as of late, including a 21-point effort to lead the Bears to a 74-69 road win over Samford. The sharp-shooting sophomore guard posted 13 of his 21 points came in the second half, and scored more than half of his team-high total on four triples.

If the season ended today, the Bears would be the No. 6 seed in the tournament in Asheville, which of course means they wouldn’t have to play that extra game and that’s huge. It figures to be a wild tournament in Asheville in early March.

If the SoCon Tournament Started Tomorrow:

Friday, Mar. 2, 2018

#8 The Citadel vs. #9 Chattanooga--5 p.m.

#7 Samford vs. #10 VMI--7:30 approx

Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018

#1 ETSU vs. The Citadel/Chattanooga--12 p.m.

#4 Furman vs. #5 Western Carolina (tiebreaker as of now would go to Wofford because Furman has lost twice to UNCG already)--2:30 p.m. approx.

#2 UNCG vs. #Samford/VMI winner--6 p.m.

#3 Wofford vs. #6 Mercer--9:30 p.m. approx

Power Rankings:

  1. ETSU
  2. UNCG
  3. Furman
  4. Wofford
  5. Mercer
  6. Western Carolina
  7. Samford
  8. The Citadel
  9. Chattanooga
  10. VMI