Game Reviews: Spartans Win Helps Move Them Up

UNCG came up a big win over Furman to firmly put themselves in second place and keep their thin title chances alive. The win by Wofford was huge. The Terriers are now the team closest to the Spartans for second.

The race for the bye continues to entertain. The Citadel and Chattanooga had an entertaining game in Chattanooga. Samford’s loss hurt them but they have a chance to make up for it this weekend. VMI probably ended any chance they have at the bye.

Western Carolina made a big jump too. Looking at the standings is shocking if you have not paid attention to Western Carolina. Who would have thought?

UNCG 80, Furman 67

What Happened? The Spartans jumped out to a huge early lead as they could not miss shots early on. Then, the Paladins defense stepped up and shut down the Spartans, but in the end, the Spartans size really bothered the Paladins and UNCG pulled away for a relatively easy win. In the last eight and a half minutes, the lead was never under eight points. Devin Sibley was held to six points by the Spartans for the second time this year.

Stat of the Game: UNCG had a 44.4% offensive rebounding percentage. The Paladins had a 7.1% offensive rebounding percentage. The Spartans had 38 total rebounds to the Paladins 17. Matt Rafferty got in foul trouble and the Paladins do not have a lot of depth on the inside without him.

Player of the Game: Why not James Dickey? He had 11 points and 12 rebounds. Yes- that means that he had just five fewer rebounds than the Paladins as a team. Dickey made 5 of 7 from the floor. He got three offensive rebounds, which was one more than the Paladins had as a team.

What does it mean to UNCG? The Spartans have officially put Furman in their rear view mirror. They are up by three losses and own the tiebreaker against them. If the Spartans beat Western Carolina on Saturday, they will have basically clinched a top three seed, and if Wofford loses too, they pretty much have the two seed wrapped up. The Spartans are still unlikely to catch ETSU, who they are battling on Monday. But they are looking better and better for the number two seed.

What does it mean to Furman? Kris Acox is missed. There really is no other explanation. Furman is now 0-4 against teams currently in the top three and 7-1 vs. all other teams. They are clearly the fourth best team at the moment. They just can’t seem to beat the other top teams in the conference, and certainly do not match up well with UNCG. The Paladins do not have the size to compete with the multiple big men of the Spartans. I think Furman wants to avoid UNCG at all costs in Asheville. They play Wofford on Saturday with a shot to get up to the three seed. A loss could drop them all the way to the fifth seed.

Wofford 92, Samford 79

What Happened? The Terriers jumped out to a double digit first half lead. The Bulldogs then tied up the game in the second half. However, like against ETSU last week, Samford could not keep it going after getting back into the game in the second half and the Terriers pulled away. Both teams had all five starters score in double figures, but neither teams bench played particularly well.

Stat of the Game: The Terriers made 57.3% from the floor and 14 of 29 from three point range. The Terriers haven’t looked like themselves offensively lately, but they sure did in this one. Wofford sure looked good in this one.

Player of the Game: Fletcher Magee played very well, but he gets a lot of accolades. So I’ll go slightly off the radar with Nathan Hoover. He scored 23 points and made 8 of 12 from the floor. He knocked down 5 of 8 from three. He had four rebounds, one steal and one assist. Hoover played very well in this one.

What does it mean to Samford? The Bulldogs are in eighth place, but host The Citadel and Mercer on Saturday and Monday. They’ll have a chance to get back into the race for sixth if they can sweep those games. That being said, they are now 1-8 in their last nine games. There does not appear to be any real reason to think this team is going to start winning now.

What does it mean to Wofford? The Terriers are in third all by themselves and appear to be the most likely team to catch UNCG for second. They travel to Furman on Saturday, with a chance to virtually clinch third with the right results. Four of their last six are on the road, so this is going to be a tough stretch for the Terriers. Their offense needs to keep on humming like they were in this one.

Chattanooga 85, The Citadel 82

What Happened? The Mocs lead virtually the entire way, and kept on pushing the lead to double digits. But the Bulldogs kept on fighting back, including making a big run at the end to cut the lead to the three. The Bulldogs missed two threes in the final five seconds that prevented them from sending the game to overtime. Rodney Chatman made a huge layup in the final twenty seconds to push the lead to three.

Stat of the Game: The Mocs shot 56.9% from the floor and the Bulldogs shot just 42.9% from the field. While the Mocs committed more turnovers and the Bulldogs made more free throws, Chattanooga won on their strength of the hot shooting from the floor.

Player of the Game: Makale Foreman scored 22 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the floor. He made 6 of 10 from three. He also had four rebounds, two assists and a steal. Foreman played really well and was a huge reason the Mocs came away with the win.

What does it mean to The Citadel? Who knows what is going to happen? The Bulldogs are currently one half game out of sixth. They were 3-1 in their last four very difficult games. They come into Chattanooga, and fall. So how good is The Citadel? I think we’ll learn a lot on Saturday when they go to Samford. They host UNCG and VMI after that, which is a huge opportunity. There’s a real chance to get the bye still. They need to show up at Samford.

What does it mean to Chattanooga? The Mocs now sit just 1.5 games behind The Citadel and two games behind Mercer. They are just one game behind Samford. The Mocs host Mercer on Saturday and go to VMI on the last day of the season. In between they host Wofford and go to Furman and UNCG. Can the Mocs get better than the nine seed? Possibly. I think 6 or 7 wins gets the six seed. They are sitting at 3 wins right now. If they win their remaining two home games and at VMI, they would be at 6 wins. Would that be enough? Can they actually pull that off?

Western Carolina 72, VMI 60

What Happened? VMI jumped out to an early lead, but Western Carolina came back and took an eight point halftime lead. The Keydets them cut the lead to one in the second half, but the Catamounts pulled away again and took a reasonably easy road win.

Stat of the Game: The Keydets only shot 31.3% from the floor. VMI has struggled to shoot all year long. This game continued to show their poor offensive showings. The Western Carolina defense was huge in this one.

Player of the Game: Deriece Parks. Parks filled up the boxscore. He had 16 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block. Parks made of from three point range. Parks doesn’t always get a ton of good press. However, he deserves more. Parks played very well in this one.

What does it mean to Western Carolina? Looky, looky, looky. The Catamounts are tied for fourth in the SoCon race. They are only one game out of third. They play at UNCG on Saturday. A win there and they would only be a game and a half out of the two seed. Yes, the Western Carolina team that many thought might even finish last in the conference heading into conference play has a realistic shot at second. Of course, they must win on Saturday for that to stay realistic. But third is a real shot. Their next five games are brutal. They are at UNCG, host Wofford, host ETSU, play at Mercer and at home against ETSU. That’s rough. They probably need at least 3-2 to have a shot at third in the league.

What does it mean to VMI? The Keydets host ETSU on Saturday. Then they play three straight road games. VMI does not appear to be capable of getting back into the bye race at this point and looks like a team more likely to wind up in 9th or 10th in the conference. VMI is a young team that will get better in the future. Bubba Parham could well be the SoCon Freshman of the Year.

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