It was Statement Day around the SoCon. ETSU dominated Samford, Furman blew out The Citadel, Wofford crushed VMI and Western Carolina won fairly easily against Chattanooga.
As each of the winners made a big statement about where they fit into the conference race, the three best teams playing on Thursday all seemed to be trying to one up each other. One after the other, the performances seemed to be more impressive as it went. So who was better? Wofford? Furman? ETSU? Who knows?
But that’s why we’ll keep on watching for another two months.
ETSU 90, Samford 72
What Happened? I feel like we had seen this story before. ETSU was just going along against a road SoCon opponent and then late in the first half, the Bucs started to pull away. As the second half went on, the Bucs opponent never was completely out of it, but was never really in it either as the Bucs just continued to methodically pull away for a surprisingly easy road win. Yes, that’s what the Bucs did to Mercer. That’s also what they did to Samford.
Stat of the Game: ETSU had not been a great three point shooting team this year. But for the second straight game, they were lighting it up from three. The Bucs made 11 of 20 from three point range in this one, their second straight game over 50% from long range. They also shot nearly 61% from the floor. The Bucs are shooting so well right now. They are going to be very difficult to beat shooting like that.
Player of the Game: Desonata Bradford scored 18 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals. Bradford has always been someone that can fill up a boxscore and he really did it in this one. Bradford sometimes gets forgotten about in this conference, but he is a very good player.
What does it mean to ETSU? That’s two SoCon road wins for ETSU, by an average of 18.5 points. That’s good. They go to Chattanooga on Saturday for a rivalry game, but the game next Thursday at home against UNCG is another really great test for these Bucs. ETSU is saying that to be the champs, you got to beat the champs. No one has come close yet.
What does it mean to Samford? Feelings that Samford might be doing better? Wrong. They still don’t have Wyatt Walker or Christen Cunningham, but they really looked poor tonight. They host Western Carolina on Saturday in a key game for the Bulldogs as they chase down the six seed. Where does Samford fit into the mix? We really still don’t know.
Wofford 92, VMI 53
What Happened? Before most SoCon fans could even get the game pulled up on their electronic device, the game was over. With 11:25 left in the first half, Cameron Jackson made a layup to put the Terriers up 29-2. The Terriers outscored the Keydets 63-51 the rest of the way- a much more competitive game, but it had long since been decided. It was the second straight game that the Keydets gave up a huge run in the first half that essentially ended the game.
Stat of the Game: The Terriers shot a red hot 59% from the floor, knocking down 36 of 61 overall. The Keydets were outmanned to begin with and they need Wofford to be cold shooting. That simply did not happen. The Terriers were blazing hot from the floor and that put this thing away right away.
Player of the Game: The easy answer would be Fletcher Magee, who answered the bell after scoring zero against UNCG in the second half by scoring 25 on 9 of 11 shooting from the floor. But the better answer in this one is Trevor Stumpe. He scored 17 on 6 of 10 shooting from the floor. He also got five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Stumpe filled up the stat sheet in every department and is becoming a very valuable member of this team.
What does it mean to VMI? The Keydets have played two SoCon games, and been blown out twice, both by two of the league’s contenders. This VMI team is in real trouble. They just are not very good right now. The battles continue, as they face UNCG and ETSU in their next two conference games. That’s a brutal start to the schedule for a VMI team that needed a break.
What does it mean to Wofford? The Terriers needed to get back on the winning track after the disappointing finish against UNCG and they left no doubt against one of the league’s lesser teams. They get another shot against one of the lesser teams in the SoCon in The Citadel on Saturday. This Wofford team still looks like one of the best teams in the SoCon.
Western Carolina 75, Chattanooga 63
What Happened? The Mocs jumped out to a quick start and an early lead, but the Catamounts answered and jumped out to a twenty point lead. Chattanooga did not give up and cut the lead down to seven late, but they had dug themselves too big of a hole and the Catamounts prevailed.
Stat of the Game: Of the 36 available rebounds on the offensive end for Western Carolina, they corralled 17 of them. That is a remarkable 47.2% of offensive rebounds for the Catamounts. They were the team that controlled the glass and were the more physical team and that was very impressive.
Player of the Game: Mike Amius scored 27 points on 12 of 16 shooting from the floor. He had eight rebounds and four steals as well. Amius is one of the more underrated players in the SoCon at this point. He’s really coming on as a junior college transfer in the second half of his first year with the program. He could be a significant game changer down the stretch for the Catamounts.
What does it mean to Western Carolina? The Catamounts are now 2-0 in SoCon play, and suddenly it is time to say hello to one of the league’s early surprises. That is two SoCon road wins. They play at Samford on Saturday, and if the Catamounts get the win there and are 3-0 with three road conference wins, it may be time to take the team much more seriously. It still seems unlikely that this team can contend for a regular season title, but this team can definitely get the six seed, and are probably the favorites at the moment.
What does it mean to Chattanooga? The Mocs are now 0-2 in SoCon play and in a world of trouble. That was two games the Mocs could have won and they have lost them both. ETSU and Furman are coming to Chattanooga and that means that the Mocs are still in more trouble. The team that appeared to be in the best position for the six seed in the SoCon tournament is now 0-2 and looks to be pretty unlikely to get there in that race.
Furman 107, The Citadel 67
What Happened? The Citadel was ahead 30-29 with 6 minutes left in the half. Needless to say, things went poorly from there. This is the second straight game that Furman struggled early against a lesser opponent and then turned it on at the end of the first half and blew the game wide open. The Paladins dominating run put the game away.
Stat of the Game: Furman had a phenomenal 31 assists. They made 39 field goals. The Paladins were really sharing the basketball. It was beautiful basketball out of the Paladins. If they continue to share like that, they will continue to be an incredibly difficult team to stop on the offensive end.
Player of the Game: I’ll go with Devin Sibley, who scored 26 points, collected ten rebounds and had five assists. The preseason Player of the Year in the SoCon really made a statement after some other performances by other players had put him behind in the race. This was the sort of statement that will put Sibley square in the middle of race for the Player of the Year, if he wasn’t already there.
What does it mean to The Citadel? The Bulldogs fell to 0-2 in SoCon play, and they are struggling. That being said, this was not a game they were supposed to win. The Bulldogs still visit Wofford this weekend, but then get to host Samford and Chattanooga. Those games are where we will find out if the Bulldogs can contend for a bye spot.
What does it mean to Furman? Another game, another blowout for the Paladins over a team that they should have beaten. Furman is really showing off right now, with two really easy wins. Furman is one of the top teams in the SoCon. They finally get their chance to show it at home against Mercer on Saturday. It should be a tremendous game.