Coming into Thursday night it looked like Saturday was going to be the big day in the Big South. The top tier teams were supposed to beat up on some cupcakes and move on to bigger and better things on Saturday. Well... the cupcakes fought back last night which makes Saturday even more interesting at this point.
High Point Claims First Place
High Point is now the lone team in first place after taking care of business against Asheville 75-71 last night. John Brown posted 19 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season and he got help from Lorenzo Cugini, Brian Richardson, and Adam Weary who all finished in double-figures. It's pretty simple for Scott Cherry's Panthers at this point, win Saturday at Charleston Southern and claim the Big South regular season title.
Asheville has now lost four straight and currently stands seventh in the conference. Andrew Rowsey went off for 39 points last night but he was basically the whole show for the Bulldogs. UNCA needs Giacomo Zilli and Jaleel Roberts to be a big part of their late season push if they want to be successful and last night the two combined for 4 points and 3 rebounds. Asheville heads to Liberty on Saturday for a match up that suddenly looks tougher than expected. The Bulldogs can't climb higher than the 6 seed at this point and they need a win and a Gardner-Webb loss for that to happen.
Gardner-Webb Wakes Up Against Charleston Southern
Tyler Strange went off from downtown with six three pointers and 23 points to lead Gardner-Webb to a 10 point win over Charleston Southern in Boiling Springs. Jerome Hill and Tyrell Nelson combined for 36 points and 13 rebounds with Hill playing a key role distributing the ball from the post with 4 assists. Gardner-Webb heads to Radford on Saturday, a team they beat 88-85 all the way back on January 8. The Bulldogs can climb all the way to the 4 seed in the conference tournament if they win and a Winthrop loss. If they beat Radford then they'll be locked into the 5 seed at the very least.
Charleston Southern may have been looking a bit ahead to possible conference championship game on Saturday against High Point. Saah Nimley had 23 points last night but he was ice cold from three going 1-for-9. Arlon Harper picked up the slack with 22 points but it just wasn't enough for the Bucs. Believe it or not Charleston Southern could drop all the way to the five seed if they lose to High Point, but if they beat the Panthers and get some help from Radford or Presbyterian then they'll be the regular season Big South champ.
Presbyterian Shocks Coastal Carolina
Presbyterian pulled off one of the many upsets Thursday night with a 80-69 win over Coastal Carolina. The Blue Hose essentially had nothing to play for but momentum, which makes the win even more impressive. Jordan Downing had a nice double-double with 18 points and 10 boards and Markus Terry lead the Hose with 19 points. PC can play spoiler again against Winthrop Saturday but the Hose are saddled into the 8 seed where they'll play either Campbell or Longwood.
Coastal now has to sit on a sub-par shooting night for over a week as the Chants are off until next Friday. Coastal could finish as high as the 2 seed at this point or as low as the 4 seed.
Campbell Wakes Up, Beats Winthrop
Campbell looked like a team that was dead in the water dropping five straight but Senior Night seemed to wake up the Camels in a 65-50 win over Winthrop. Reco McCarter, fittingly, lead the way with 17 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds. The Camels now head to Farmville for an important match up with Longwood. The winner of that game will grab the 9 seed and play Presbyterian on Wednesday in Myrtle Beach.
Winthrop just had an abysmal shooting night, including only 2 three pointers on the night. The Eagles could now finish as low as the 6 seed after Saturday or as high as the 2 seed.
Liberty Claims In-State Win
Liberty showed a little pride last night in knocking off Radford 80-69 in the Vines Center. Theo Johnson lead the way with 26 points while Andrew Smith posted a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Flames are locked into the 11 seed and it'll be interesting to see if they carry over any momentum from this win into Saturday.
Radford looked disinterested and outmatched. Now the Highlanders have to fight on Saturday to finish as high as the 2 seed or as low as the 6 seed.