Southern Conference Basketball Previews for Feb. 6

John HooperCorrespondent IIFebruary 6, 2012

Southern Conference Basketball Previews for Feb. 6

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    GREENVILLE, S.C.--It's a big night of Southern Conference basketball, with three games on tap for this Monday night in early February.

    Obviously, the marquee matchup is at Davidson's Belk Arena, where it will be a meeting of the league's traditional power against the league's newest power, when Davidson hosts Wofford. The Terriers, the two-time defending SoCon champs, face a program that is tied with Chattanooga for most SoCon Tournament titles with 10, when they make the short trip up I-85 to meet the Wildcats.

    Davidson won the first matchup in early December, as the Wildcats emerged with a 72-69 win at the Benjamin-Johnson Arena. Wofford did post a 69-64 win over the Wildcats in its last trip to Belk Arena back on Jan. 15, 2011. The Terriers and Wildcats will be meeting for the 96th time this evening, with the Wildcats holding a commanding 71-24 lead.

    The other important South Division clash takes place in Statesboro, Ga., this evening, with Georgia Southern hosting Furman. The Paladins are coming off a big win over North Division-leading UNC Greensboro on Saturday, claiming a 93-85 win over the Spartans at Timmons Arena on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, Georgia Southern was up in Cullowhee, N.C., taking care of its first win over the Western Carolina Catamounts on their home floor since Jan. 15, 2005, with a 68-65 win inside the Ramsey Center. Furman has owned the series of late between the Paladins and Eagles, having won five of the last six between the two, including a 73-56 win last February at Hanner Fieldhouse. 

    The only North Division matchup of the evening takes place at Alumni Gym on the campus of Elon University, as the North Division-leading Phoenix host Appalachian State. Just a little over a week removed from an 81-66 win over the Phoenix at the Holmes Center, the Mountaineers look to put an end to a two-game losing streak, which both occurred on their home floor, with consecutive losses to Samford (53-52) and College of Charleston (74-62).

    It is a must-win situation for the Mountaineers, who are trying to stay alive for one of the top two byes handed out to the top two finishers in the North Division. For Elon, a win would bring an end to a seven-game losing streak to the Apps and brings the Phoenix and head coach Matt Matheny a step closer to a possible division championship and a top-two finish in the SoCon North. 

Davidson Set to Host Wofford in a Battle of Top Two Teams in SoCon South

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    Wofford (15-9, 8-4 SoCon) at Davidson (17-5, 11-1 SoCon), 7 p.m.


    It will be a clash of the top two in the SoCon's South Division on Monday night, as Davidson hosts Wofford in a monumental Southern Conference clash on Monday evening.

    Davidson enters Monday evening's encounter coming off an 88-61 win over Chattanooga on Saturday afternoon, winning its second-straight game since a 77-74 loss to Samford last Saturday. Wofford had its six-game winning streak snapped with a 66-61 overtime loss to Samford on Saturday.

    Monday night's meeting between the Wildcats and Terriers will mark the second meeting of the season between the two teams, as the two teams squared off on the hardwood way back in early December, with Davidson posting a 72-69 win at the Benjamin-Johnson Arena. 

    Davidson shot the ball well from the outside against Chattanooga on Saturday evening, as the Wildcats canned a season-high 17 triples in the 27-point home win over the Mocs. Leading the way for the Wildcats was sophomore forward Chris Czerapowicz (9.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG), who posted a game-high 21 points off the Davidson bench, with 18 of his points coming off a 6-of-13 shooting performance from three-point range in the contest.

    Czerapowicz is a player that has been one of the most dangerous shooters off the bench in the SoCon this season, and he enters Monday's contest against the Terriers having connected on 41 triples this season to lead the team.

    Also in double figures on Saturday afternoon against the Mocs were junior guard Nik Cochran (12.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG) and sophomore forward De'Mon Brooks (15.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG), scoring 15 and 13 points, respectively. Like Czerapowicz, both Cochran and Brooks shot the ball well from the perimeter on Saturday night, as Cochran connected on 5-of-9 shots from the perimeter in the contest, while Brooks was 2-for-2 from three-point range in the contest. 

    Brooks is clearly Davidson's most versatile performer and the team's best athlete.

    The All-SoCon caliber Brooks had a solid evening in the first meeting between the Wildcats and Terriers this season in Spartanburg, as he scored 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, including 2-for-3 from three-point range in the three-point road win by the Wildcats. He also grabbed six boards in the contest, becoming the kind of player that has been a tough matchup for everyone this season.

    Cochran has been the steady leader of this Davidson team at the point guard position this season, and in years past, it's been this position that counted most when the Wildcats have been among the league's elite.

    In 1996, there was Chris Alpert, and 2006-08, there was of course, Jason Richards, and you can't forget Ali Ton in 1998. Cochran is the next in line of great Davidson point guards. In the first meeting with the Terriers this season, Cochran posted six points and three assists. Cochran comes in averaging 3.1 assists per game this season, which ranks him 10th in the league in that category entering Monday night's contest.

    The player that had the biggest impact against the Terriers in the first meeting between the two teams was Jake Cohen (13.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG). Cohen had a monster game the first time the Wildcats and Terriers met this season, as he scored a game-high 26 points in helping the Wildcats to the three-point victory. Cohen is coming off a game which saw him score 11 points and grab eight boards, turning in another solid performance. Cohen comes into Monday night's clash with the Terriers, leading the Southern Conference in free throw shooting (88.8%), while ranking third in the SoCon in blocks (30 blocks, 1.4 BPG).

    J.P. Kuhlman (11.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG) rounds out the double-figure scorers in the starting lineup for the Wildcats, and he comes into tonight's showdown, having scored in double figures in four of his last five outings. Kuhlman had only five points the last time out, but he dished out seven assists and had a couple of boards. In the first meeting with the Terriers this season, Kuhlman contributed nine points, six boards and four assists.  

    Tom Droney (4.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG) and Clint Mann (5.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG) have been two role players for the Wildcats this season.  Droney is the team's best on-the-ball defender and has started all 21 games he has played in this season. Mann has been the top player off the bench for the Wildcats this season for the Wildcats and he is certainly a great asset off the bench as a post defender. Tyler Kalinoski (5.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG) and Frank Ben-Eze (1.0 PPG, 0.7 RPG) add more depth off the bench in the backcourt and in the post, respectively.

    Like Davidson, Wofford prides itself on its play on the defensive end of the floor. The Terriers come into the matchup off a heartbreaking 66-61 overtime loss to Samford, which snapped a six-game winning streak for the Terriers. 

    Wofford comes in continuing to be led by Kevin Giltner (15.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and Brad Loesing (14.5 PPG, 5.5 APG), the two holdovers remaining from the Terriers' back-to-back SoCon title runs. Giltner continues to be one of the league's top perimeter threats, as he comes into the contest ranking third in the league in three-pointers made, with 61 treys this season. Loesing continues to be one of the league's top point guards, and he comes into the contest ranking second in the league in assists-per-game, handing out 5.5 helpers per contest. In the initial meeting between the Wildcats and Terriers back in early December, Giltner posted 15 points, while Loesing added 13.

    Karl Cochran (11.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG) has been one of the league's top freshmen players this season, and it was Cochran that was especially good the first time these two met, as he contributed 15 points in the 72-69 loss to the Wildcats. Cochran might be the most athletically-gifted player on the Wofford roster, and he is also an excellent perimeter shooter, having knocked down 47 treys this season to rank second on the team in three-pointers made. 

    The front court certainly has lost a lot from a team that won two-straight league tournament crowns, but the Terriers have proven that, while they don't have Tim Johnson and Noah Dahlman this season, it is unwise to underestimate the current mix of talent in the post. Leading the way in the paint this season has been Drew Crowell (9.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG), who posted one of his best games as a Terrier in the initial meeting between the Terriers and Wildcats, posting a team-high 17 points. Crowell has ended up being one of the biggest surprises in the SoCon this season.

    Crowell will be joined underneath the basket by Aerris Smith (4.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG), who's another player that is seeing the first significant playing time in his career as a sophomore, and is more than holding his own, especially defensively in the post.

    Lee Skinner (5.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG) and Jarrell Byrd (2.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG) are two athletic posts coming off the bench, while Lithuanian Domas Rinksalis gives the Terriers size and a shot-blocking presence off the bench behind Crowell. 

    This game will be a defensive slug-fest, but the Wildcats have been so tough to beat at Belk Arena, and come in with a 10-1 mark inside the facility this season. Davidson gets another impressive win at home this evening against arguably the league's second-best team.