Chattanooga 59, Samford 54
The Mocs came in as the top seed, but had lost six straight SoCon Tournament games. Samford was without Wyatt Walker, who got injured late in the first round win on Friday night. But this was a struggle throughout, as Justin Tuoyo, Greg Pryor, Chuck Ester and Tre McLean all battled foul trouble for the Mocs early. Samford built their lead because of the foul trouble. It was the Mocs stingy defense in the second half that kept them in the game until they finally started making some shots.
Jonathan Burroughs-Cook made a block on the defensive end on the fast break, got the ball down the floor to Tre McLean quickly for a three that trimmed the lead to 38-37 with 12:19 left in the game. The Mocs defense only gave up six points in the first fourteen minutes of the second half. They only scored fifteen during that span to give the Mocs a four point lead, but it was that defensive effort which won the game in the end.
Christen Cunningham scored 18 for Samford and was the leading scorer. The Mocs outrebounded Samford in the end, but it was basically equal.
Where does Samford go from here?
The Bulldogs have Matt Rose and Wyatt Walker who are both freshman. Christen Cunningham is a sophomore. This is a team that is clearly taking steps in the right direction. Scott Padgett has made a difference for this team. They will be looking to take another step next year. There is a plan in place. I thought they would make a jump this year, and they looked like they had out of conference when they won at Nebraska and was competitive with Texas. In conference play, they seemed to go backwards. I still think they make the jump next year.
Western Carolina 88, Wofford 83 (2OT)
In yet another thriller, the two time defending champs were eliminated in double overtime. Torrion Brummitt scored 25 points and Mike Brown scored 34. Justin Browning made a bunch of little plays to help the Catamounts pull it off. The Terriers just couldn't make enough plays to come up with the win.
Spencer Collins really struggled down the stretch. He scored 5 in this one. In the last five games, he scored 7 and 4 as well. He scored an average of ten points per game during that stretch. It was a disappointing way for him to wrap up his career with the Terriers. He has been so good throughout his career, but really struggled in this one.
The Catamounts have the home court advantage in Asheville and really play well there. This game was yet another magical win in US Cellular Arena. They will try to get a couple of more and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Where does Wofford go from here?
Justin Gordon, CJ Neumann and Collins are all seniors and leaving. That's not good for this club. That's a lot to have to replace. However, Fletcher Magee was Freshman of the Year. The future is reasonably bright for this club, but I still think that the odds are this team stays the same or drops back a step before they advance further up the ladder again.
ETSU 81, Mercer 65
The Bucs were only up by two at halftime, but eventually wore down the depleted Bears lineup with their athleticism and depth. ETSU made 24 of 27 free throws for the game while forcing eighteen turnovers.
The Bucs were led by Ge'Lawn Guyn and his 23 points. TJ Cromer had 17 points for the Bucs as well. AJ Merriweather played just eight minutes, but did not score. He needs to step up more the deeper into this tournament ETSU goes. He is yet to score in 19 minutes of action in two games since his return from the injury earlier this year. They will need him tomorrow evening.
Mercer, who has dealt with so much this year, was led again by Phillip Leonard. He scored 22 points. He was brilliant in this tournament for the Bears. The senior will be sorely missed.
Where does Mercer go from here?
That's an interesting question. They could go to a postseason tournament, potentially, and Mercer has certainly accepted those in the past. However, this team has been through a lot this year, and they may decide just to call it quits on this season. Leonard was the only senior playing at the end of the season. This team should be improved next year. They were on their way to being better this year, until everything fell apart at the end. They should be back to that level next year, which puts them easily in the top half of the conference.
Furman 80, UNCG 64
The Paladins made quick work of the Spartans in this one, as the UNCG defense did not have a prayer of figuring out how to stop the Furman offense. Stephen Croone scored 20 points and Devin Sibley did as well. Furman shot 50% from the floor and got the free throw thirty times for the game. UNCG, who was supposed to have the advantage inside on Furman, was outrebounded by 12 by the Paladins as well.
All in all it was an impressive and confident showing from the Paladins, who came into the game on a three game losing streak. The Spartans had come in red hot at the end of the season to get to 10-8 in SoCon play. The two teams played like their roles were reversed in this one.
Diante Baldwin and Francis Alonso were each held to just eight points. Kayel Locke did score 16 points for the Spartans. The team on the whole just could not get going for the Spartans in this one and the Paladins made it look relatively easy.
Where does UNCG go from here?
Locke and Asad Lamot are the seniors on this roster. Can Wes Miller hold the roster together over the summer, something he has struggled at throughout his time in Greensboro? Will Miller even return? This team has more talent than what their record shows. This loss is really disappointing for the fanbase that had started to buy in a bit. If the team stays together, next year this team should be in the top half of the conference, and possibly make a run at the conference title if they can add a little depth. Baldwin and Alonso are both very good players. Alonso may be a future Player of the Year.
Western Carolina vs. Chattanooga (5:00)- The Catamounts beat Chattanooga in Cullowhee earlier this year, after the Mocs handled them at home. The Mocs committed a ton of turnovers in their loss to Western Carolina. If the Mocs can avoid the turnovers and come out with focus, then they should win this one. They also need to avoid the foul trouble that plagued them against Samford. Torrion Brummitt, Justin Browning and Mike Brown are all very good players, and Rhett Harrelson is capable of going off at any moment. The Mocs need to get Eric Robertson going again. The good news is that Greg Pryor and Justin Tuoyo should be well rested heading into this one, as they sat out much of Saturday's game with foul trouble.
Furman vs. ETSU (7:30)- The two teams split and they were both crazy games. Furman jumped out to a big lead until in the closing moments ETSU rallied to nearly win. The opposite happened in Johnson City. The guard play in this one will be magnificent. It will quite possibly be the best guard play of the entire tournament. Stephen Croone and Devin Sibley will need to continue their excellent play, while Ge'Lawn Guyn and TJ Cromer will try to step up for the Bucs. This game is really interesting and could be one of the best games of the entire tournament, which is saying something given how exciting the first two days have been.
Gut feeling picks: Chattanooga, ETSU