GREENVILLE. S.C.--We had College of Charleston and Davidson on display last week as one of the league's top rivalries, and now the two programs that have had the most success in the Southern Conference will square off on the hardwood on Thursday evening.
SoCon unbeaten Davidson takes its act on the road to historically one of the toughest places to play in the Southern Conference, as the Wildcats travel to the Roundhouse to battle the Chattanooga Mocs in a key Southern Conference battle.
Chattanooga and Davidson remain the only two Southern Conference programs to have won 10 league tournament titles apiece. The Mocs and Wildcats have met four times in the league's title game, with each school winning a pair of those meetings. Chattanooga claimed wins in 1982 (69-58) and '95 (65-64), while Davidson posted wins in 2006 (80-55) and '86 (42-40).
Few will forget the 1986 and '94 meetings between the two schools which featured Davidson's Gerry Born sinking Chattanooga with a buzzer-beating jumper, while eight years later, brother Brandon Born would help the Mocs return the favor against the Wildcats with a big shot in the final moments to help Chattanooga to the 65-64 win.
There have been many other exciting battles between the Mocs and Wildcats over the years, both in the regular season as well as the league tournament. Chattanooga was won or tied for a league regular-season championship in 19 of 34 seasons as a league member, while winning 10 tournament titles. No one has had as much success as the Chattanooga basketball program.
Davidson has also won 10 tournament crowns, but has not had quite the success from a program standpoint as a whole. The Mocs and Wildcats have met 53 times previously coming into Thursday evening's contest, with Chattanooga holding a 32-21 all-time series edge.
In recent regular-season meetings, the Mocs and Wildcats played a thriller back on Dec. 13, 2008, when the Mocs traveled to Belk Arena to tangle with No. 22 Davidson in a key early-season SoCon clash. It was the North Division's top team against the South Division's top club. Davidson needed 41 points from Stephen Curry to hold off Stephen McDowell and visiting Chattanooga in getting a 100-95 win over the eventual Southern Conference title winners.
Chattanooga snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Wildcats last season, posting a 78-73 win at The Roundhouse, garnering its first win over the Wildcats since a 65-59 win over the Mocs in January of 2006 at McKenzie Arena.
The two teams ended up splitting the series last season, with the Wildcats evening the season series against Chattanooga with a 73-59 win at Belk Arena. The Mocs hold a 13-9 all-time series lead at The Roundhouse, while Davidson is 17-5 against the Mocs at Belk Arena.
Chattanooga comes into the contest having struggled of late, dropping its last three, including a heartbreaking 88-87 setback on Saturday evening at Elon, while Davidson posted its sixth-straight win with an 80-51 win over The Citadel on Saturday night.
Chattanooga was the preseason selection to win the SoCon's North Division, but after its third straight loss on Saturday night, the Mocs currently sit in fifth in the North Division, while South Division preseason favorite Davidson is a comfortable three-games ahead of the second-place Wofford.
We will also take a look of two other SoCon games in a full slate of games on Thursday night. Wofford travels to take on The Citadel in a key South Division tilt, while Elon looks to remain atop the North Division with a trip to Western Carolina on Thursday night. Other matchups include Furman traveling to College of Charleston, Appalachian State going to UNC Greensboro and Samford hosting Georgia Southern.
Elon (9-9, 4-3 SoCon) at Western Carolina (9-11, 3-4 SoCon)
North Division-leading Elon, fresh off a dramatic 88-87 win over Chattanooga on Saturday night, heads to reeling Western Carolina, who dropped its third game in its last four outings, with an 87-77 loss at Appalachian State on Saturday afternoon.
Elon and Western Carolina have established a pretty good rivalry in their time as North Division rivals, with Western Carolina claiming both meetings last season including a 70-63 victory at the Ramsey Center last season. Coming into Thursday night's showdown, Western Carolina has claimed four-straight victories in the series.
The Phoenix and Catamounts will be getting together on the hardwood for the 90th time on the college basketball hardwood Thursday evening, with the Phoenix holding a 51-38 all-time series edge. The shoe is now on the other foot, as two-time defending North Division champion Western Carolina finds itself chasing the Phoenix at the top of the league standings heading into Thursday night's league clash that has taken on some pretty big implications for both clubs.
While a loss wouldn't necessarily put the Catamounts out of contention for the division title, it would certainly make the road much tougher in trying to track down the Phoenix and Mountaineers. Elon hasn't exactly been on fire as of late, as the Phoenix enter Thursday's contest having lost seven of their last nine games.
The Phoenix have gotten strong play out of forward Lucas Troutman (12.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG), who is having an all-conference sophomore season, doing it on both ends of the floor. Though he posted 21 points in the win over Chattanooga on Saturday night, it was a play on the defensive floor—as Troutman caught an alley-oop and laid the ball in off the glass, then sprinted back to block a shot off a potential transition opportunity for the Mocs—that head coach Matt Matheny highlighted as a "winning play."
Continuing to the lead the team at the point this season has been Austin Hamilton (10.7 PPG, 3.1 APG), who's certainly making a strong push for the SoCon's "Newcomer of the Year" award.
Hamilton's youth is offset by the experience and veteran leadership of Drew Spradlin (9.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG), who's seen his scoring taper off a bit in the middle part of the season.
Jack Isenbarger (10.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG), who rounds out the double-figure scorers for the Phoenix, seems to have found his shot after struggling early on in the 2011-12 season. He ranks second on the club with 31 triples this season.
The Phoenix are even deeper in the front court, as Elon has gotten some good minutes from its three starters, as well as from the bench this season. Troutman is joined in the starting lineup underneath the basket by Ryley Beaumont (6.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG) and Sebastian Koch (8.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG), who have both started all 18 games so far this season for Elon. Koch leads the team with 34 treys this season.
Egheosa Edomwonti (3.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG), Brett Irvin (3.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG) and Roger Dugas (1.8 PPG, 1.4 RPG) have provided excellent minutes off the bench this in the post for the Phoenix.
Western Carolina enters the contest coming off that 84-72 loss at archrival Appalachian State on Saturday, and returns to the friendly confines of the Ramsey Center, where the Catamounts have won 41 of their past 47 home games over the past three seasons.
The Catamounts continue to be led by a strong conglomeration of talent in the backcourt, as Larry Hunter has continued in the tradition of having some of the best guard talent in the Southern Conference.
This season that same tenant of Hunter's previous seven seasons in Cullowhee has held true once again with a talented trio of guards entering the contest, led by Harouna Mutombo (13.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG) and Trey Sumler (12.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG), who enter Thursday's league tilt as two of the team's four double-figure scorers.
Both Mutombo and Sumler have the ability to take over a game and have led one of the league's top backcourts this season. Mutombo is also noted for his play on the defensive end of the floor, as he is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the SoCon. Mutombo has led the Catamounts in scoring 11 times this season, recording his best performance of the 2011-12 season against Kent State, scoring 21 points in the narrow 58-56 loss to the Golden Flashes.
Sumler, who has led the Catamounts in scoring the past three games, recorded his best performances of the season against Furman and Toccoa Falls, scoring 18 points in both of those games.
Brandon Boggs (10.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG) will round out the starters in the backcourt, and Boggs recorded one of the best games by any player in the Southern Conference earlier this season, as he posted 35 points in the 74-57 loss to Northern Colorado. Boggs, like his teammate Mutombo, is a tremendous defensive presence for the Catamounts. Boggs is a tremendous athlete and is coming off a 16-point effort against Appalachian State the last time out.
Set to start in the paint on Thursday evening for the Catamounts will be Tawaski King (6.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and Preston Ross (4.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG). Both King and Ross are not known for their scoring in the paint for the Mocs, but the duo gives the Catamounts some physicality underneath. Foul trouble has plagued King at times throughout his career.
One of the top players coming off the bench for the Catamounts entering Thursday night's showdown in Cullohwhee will be backup point guard Keaton Cole (10.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG), who's instant offense coming off the pine for the Catamounts this season. Cole ranks second in the SoCon in three-pointers made this season with 57 triples on the campaign.
Ishmael Hollis (3.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG) is a solid shooter coming off the bench for the Catamounts, and he will back up Boggs, while James Sinclair (2.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG) will add even more depth in the backcourt. Kenneth Hall (0.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG) has been solid coming off the bench in the frontcourt this season.
Final Score Prediction
Western Carolina 82, Elon 77
Wofford (12-8, 6-2 SoCon) at The Citadel (4-15, 1-7)
Wofford heads to Charleston this weekend for a pair of key Southern Conference South Division contests, facing The Citadel and College of Charleston on Thursday and Saturday nights respectively. The Terriers will begin this week's proceedings against the Bulldogs on Thursday evening, renewing a heated Southern Conference and Palmetto State rivalry.
Thursday evening's matchup between the Terriers and Bulldogs will mark the 93rd all-time meeting between the two rivals, with the Terriers holding a narrow 47-45 series edge. The Terriers come into Thursday evening's contest having won 10-straight in the series, dating back to the 2007-08 season.
Despite having lost four starters from a team that won back-to-back Southern Conference crowns in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the Terriers find themselves alone in second place in the SoCon's South Division at the midway point of the 2011-12 campaign.
Wofford comes into Thursday's contest playing some of its best basketball of the season, as the Terriers have won three-straight and four of their last six, while the Bulldogs have lost four-straight coming into the home contest against the Terriers including a heart-breaker on Monday night, which was a 78-72 double-overtime defeat at the hands of the Georgia Southern Eagles.
The Terriers come into Thursday's contest continuing to rely on the senior, veteran leadership of point guard Brad Loesing (14.4 PPG, 5.2 APG), as well as of senior small forward Kevin Giltner (16.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG). Both were integral parts of those back-to-back title runs, and both have been asked to step up and be more offensively involved this season, and the classmates have responded.
Loesing is one of the league's top point guards and ranks third in the league in assists per game entering Thursday night's contest. To give you an idea of how much Loesing has raised his offensive numbers this season, he averaged just 6.2 PPG at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season.
Giltner is once again one of the league's top perimeter threats this season and enters Thursday's contest with the Bulldogs having knocked down 52 triples this season, leading the team and ranking third in the league. He has scored 20 or more points in five games this season, including a 26-point effort in Wofford's come-from-behind 79-72 win on Saturday.
The Terriers have also gotten strong play from freshman shooting guard Karl Cochran (10.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG), as well as maybe what can only be referred to to as the Terriers' "unsung hero" this season, Drew Crowell (9.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG). It's been Crowell who's battled the adversity of losing his father this summer and who's faced up to the gigantic shoes that Noah Dahlman left to be filled in the post this season that has Crowell being easily worthy of the aforementioned title. Crowell comes into Thursday night's contest leading the league in field goal percentage at 61.5 percent.
Aerris Smith (4.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG) rounds out the trio of talented starters in the paint, and he is among a trio of role players which includes impressive newcomers Jarrell Byrd (2.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG) and Lee Skinner (5.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG) off the bench. They have made the Terriers once again a factor in the Southern Conference title race.
For The Citadel, it's been all about one player in particular this season, and that player is Mike Groselle (17.2 PPG, 9.7 RPG). Groselle has been the Bulldogs' leader in every area this season, and right now at least, would have to be given serious consideration for league Player of the Year plaudits despite the Bulldogs' struggles this season, as he leads the league in both scoring and rebounding.
Groselle produced his third double-double of the campaign in the recent loss at Georgia Southern on Thursday night, as he posted 20 points and 14 boards. He has now scored 20 or more points in three-straight games for the Bulldogs. With his his 20-point/14-board effort on Thursday night, Groselle continues to lead the league in double-doubles, now having posted 10 on the campaign.
Groselle will be joined in the post by talented, reliable freshman C.J. Bray (4.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG). Bray will be making his 15th start of the season against the Terriers, which leads all Citadel freshmen on the current roster.
Cosmo Morabbi (6.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG), Ashton Moore and Davonte Wright (9.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.8 APG) will comprise the starting trio in the backcourt on Thursday night for the Bulldogs.
For the most part this season, Morabbi has been inconsistent, while both Moore and Wright are getting a feel for the college game, and both are trying to provide for the Bulldogs offensively as the duo are trying to replace what is arguably the greatest individual backcourt player to ever put on The Citadel Blue in Cameron Wells.
The top players coming off of Chuck Driesell's bench this season have been Harris Marshall III (3.4 PPG, 2.3 APG) and Bo Holston (4.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG). Marshall turned in his best game in a Citadel uniform the last time out for the Bulldogs, posting 14 points on six-of-eight shooting from the field and two-for-four from three-point range in the six-point loss to the Eagles.
Thursday night's meeting between the two will mark the second of the season between the two Palmetto State rivals, with the Terriers having claimed an 82-63 win at the Benjamin-Johnson Arena back on Dec.3.
Giltner was one of three Terriers in double figures in the winning effort, having posted 27 points and 10 boards to lead the Terriers to the 19-point win on the home hardwood. Loesing chipped in 16 points, while Cochran added 13 to the cause. The Bulldogs got 13 points apiece from Groselle and Moore in the loss.
The simple fact of the matter is Wofford is not as talented as either of the two teams that won the titles in 2010 and '11. However, it may not have to be if it keeps playing the kind of defense it has played to this point in the campaign. Wofford continues to lead the league in scoring defense (62.0 PPG), while ranking in the upper echelon of the league in field goal percentage defense (42.7%/fourth in SoCon).
The trend for the Bulldogs is certainly one they would like to reverse against the Terriers in the two major sports, having lost 13-straight to Wofford on the gridiron and 10-straight on the basketball hardwood. Look for that trend to continue on the basketball hardwood any way on Thursday night, as the Terriers gut out a hard-fought win on the road.
Final Score Prediction
Wofford 66, The Citadel 63
Davidson (14-4, 8-0 SoCon) at Chattanooga (9-12, 3-5 SoCon), 7 p.m.
SoCon unbeaten Davidson heads to the Scenic City on Thursday night to tangle with perennial North Division favorite Chattanooga in a key Southern Conference inter-divisional clash. Thursday night's meeting between the Mocs and Wildcats will mark the 54th all-time meeting between the two SoCon powers, with the Mocs holding a 32-21 all-time series edge.
Last season the Mocs and Wildcats met only once, with the lone meeting between the two taking place at Belk Arena and Davidson was able to pick up a 73-59 win over Chattanooga. The last time the two teams met in Chattanooga was on Feb. 22, 2010, with the Mocs picking up a 78-73 victory over the Wildcats in that particular matchup.
Both teams are headed in opposite directions coming into this matchup as the Wildcats come in having won seven-straight and eight out of its last nine games. The Mocs are on a three-game losing skid, which has come on the heels of a three-game winning streak. The Mocs have been extremely inconsistent this season.
Davidson comes in continuing to be led by SoCon Player of the Year candidates Jake Cohen (14.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG) and D'emon Brooks (15.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG).
Cohen has simply been sensational as of late, having scored 20 or more points in the Wildcats' last five games. Cohen is coming off another strong performance in the Wildcats' 80-51 win over The Citadel, as he scored 20 points and he had four boards. Cohen is one of the most versatile big men in the Southern Conference with his ability to step out and hit the perimeter jumper. He has connected on 19 treys this season for the Wildcats.
Brooks enters Thursday evening's contest having a sensational sophomore season, and he is the best all-around player for the Wildcats. Brooks is a tremendous athlete, and he can score in a variety of different ways.
He is coming off a near double-double performance against the Bulldogs on Saturday night as he posted 15 points and nine boards. He has scored in double figures in three-straight games and has scored a season-high 24 points on three occasions this season with the latest of those 24-point efforts coming in a 96-74 win over Georgia Southern back on Jan. 7.
The Wildcats have a talented trio of guards that have provided veteran leadership and plenty of scoring punch for Bob McKillop's club the entire season. J.P. Kuhlman (11.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG) and Nik Cochran (11.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG) have averaged in double figures virtually the entire season and have been great assets on both ends of the floor.
Kuhlman is a tremendous all-around player and he is one of the team's best on-the-ball defenders, and he enters Thursday night's contest leading the team with 19 steals.
Cochran has been the "glue guy" for this Davidson team this season. In his role as the team's point guard, his importance to this team sometimes goes unnoticed due to how Brooks and Cohen have been playing. Cochran shoots a team-best 41.9 percent (26-of-62) from three-point range this season.
No one will forget his three-pointer that sunk Kansas in the final minutes in the Wildcats' 80-74 win over the No. 12 Jayhawks earlier this season. Cochran's 3.0 assists per game ranks him 11th in the league in that particular category heading into Thursday's game.
Tom Droney (4.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG) rounds out the starting five for the Wildcats, and he is another player that excels as a defender. In fact, it's Droney who usually draws the opponent's top offensive threat and will likely find himself drawing the assignment of trying to stop Chattanooga's Omar Wattad on Thursday night.
The Wildcats have had a deep bench this season with two of the best players coming off the pine being instant offensive weapon Chris Czerapowicz (9.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG) and talented freshman guard Tyler Kalinoski (5.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG). Czerapowicz is the Wildcats' most dangerous outside shooter entering Thursday's contest, having connected on a team-high 31 triples on the campaign.
Clint Mann (5.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG) has been a workhorse in the paint coming off the bench this season for the Wildcats, as has Frank Ben-Eze (1.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG). Mann suffered a concussion in a recent game against Appalachian State and should be back at a full 100 percent Thursday evening.
Ben-Eze played one of his most inspired efforts of his career in the 87-69 win over College of Charleston. He scored six points and blocked five shots in the matchup between the two best teams in the South Division.
Chattanooga enters the contest continuing to be led by seniors Omar Wattad (13.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG) and Ricky Taylor (13.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG), who have been solid offensive weapons for the Mocs once again this season.
Wattad is the league's most prolific outside shooter, as he enters the contest having connected on a league-leading 61 triples this season. Taylor also shoots the ball well from the perimeter, and he comes into tonight's game ranking second in the league in three-point shooting percentage, knocking shots down at a 45.0 percent (36-for-80) clip from the perimeter this season.
Rounding out the double-figure scoring for the Mocs entering Thursday evening's contest is University of Georgia transfer Drazen Zloravic (10.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG).Zloravic has been strong on the boards this season for the Mocs and comes into Thursday night's matchup ranking fourth in the SoCon in rebounding average per game.
Zloravic is shooting 50.8 percent (94-for-185) from the field this season to rank 10th in the league in field goal percentage. Zloravic registered his best game of the season for the Mocs against the Kentucky Wildcats, scoring a season-high 15 points and grabbing nine boards in the 87-62 loss.
Seniors Keegan Bell (7.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.9 APG) and Jahmal Burroughs (3.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG) will round out the starting five for the Mocs on Thursday evening with Bell starting at the point and Burroughs starting underneath the basket.
Bell is one of the league's premier point guards, and he enters Thursday night's showdown with the Wildcats leading the Southern Conference and ranking sixth nationally in assists per game. Bell recorded his best game of the season in the win over Savannah State, posting 20 points in that victory. Bell ranks third on the squad in three-pointers made this season, having knocked down 34 triples.
Burroughs has had to step up his play since the dismissal of Chris Early, and he has been a workhorse on the interior for the Mocs this season. He has also been one of the leaders on the floor for the Mocs this season. Burroughs tied career highs with 11 points and eight boards in the narrow win over Appalachian State a few weeks ago.
Coming off the bench Chattanooga has gotten some strong play out of Dontay Hampton (5.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG), who is the backup point guard behind Keegan Bell, and Hampton has done a nice job coming off the bench this season. Hampton has even started a pair of games for the Mocs this season, and in one of those starts, Hampton provided the winning layup in the 65-63 win over Appalachian State.
Lance Stokes (2.2 PPG, 0.9 RPG) will provide depth in the frontcourt while Ronrico White (3.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG) is another player that can provide depth in the backcourt for the Mocs.
Final Score Prediction
Davidson 75, Chattanooga 70