Southern Conference South Division Notes Heading into the Final Week

John Hooper@soconjohn22Correspondent IIFebruary 22, 2010

Below is a look at some South Division notes entering the final week of the regular season on the SoCon hardwood.

SOUTH DIVISION NOTES

1. College of Charleston (19-9, 13-3)

It will all come down to Thursday night for the Cougars, as College of Charleston looks to win its first South Division title since the 2003-04 season and first under the direction of legendary head coach Bobby Cremins. The Cougars come into the last week of the regular season, having won 13 of their last 16 games, including winning six out of their last seven games.

CofC gave a good account of itself and the Southern Conference as a whole on Saturday night, getting an 83-81 win over 2006 Final Four qualifier George Mason at the Patriot Center on Saturday night. A win against Wofford on Thursday night would give the Cougars their ninth 20-win season in 11 seasons as a league member.

Thursday night's game against the Terriers for the South Division title, offers the Cougars a chance to deliver Bobby Cremins his first regular-season SoCon title as head coach of the Cougars, and with a win, the Cougars would clinch the automatic bid to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), which is awarded to the SoCon team that finishes with the best overall league mark. The College of Charleston enters the final week of SoCon play with the SoCon's second-highest RPI (113).

The Cougars continue to shoot the ball extremely well from the perimeter this season, continuing to rank third nationally in three-pointers made per game (9.5) and are shooting 37.1% from long-range this season to rank fifth in the league in that category. CofC continues to be led by Andrew Goudelock, who's averaging 19.2 PPG to rank second in the league in individual scoring. He is joined in double figures scoring average by Jeremy Simmons (12.3 PPG), Donovan Monroe (12.4 PPG), and Tony White, Jr. (11.7 PPG). Simmons also ranks second in the league in rebounds per game (8.1 RPG), second in field goal percentage (60.4%), and leads the league in blocked shots per game (2.3 BPG/52 blocks). As a team, the Cougars rank third in the league in team scoring, averaging 74.8 PPG.

In the win over George Mason on Saturday night, the Cougars got a big night from Tony White, Jr., who scored 25 points in the win, including a couple of game-clinching free throws with five seconds remaining that proved to be game-winners. The Cougars close out the regular-season slate with games against Wofford on Thursday night and will play Furman in the regular-season finale on Saturday night in Greenville.

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1. Wofford (21-8, 13-3 SoCon)

The Wofford Terriers continued their magical run through the 2009-10 season, getting a hard-fought, 82-76 win at Georgia Southern in overtime on Saturday night at Hanner Fieldhouse—a place the Terriers have traditionally struggled at over the years. Wofford is on the cusp of history. With a win over the Cougars on Thursday night, Wofford could win its first basketball title as a Division I member and would enter the tournament as a No. 1 overall seed. A win over Charleston would also guarantee a postseason tournament appearance as a Division One member, as the victor on Thursday night would be guaranteed a bid to the NIT as a result of the best overall regular-season league win. Wofford has now won 21 games in a season for the first time since the Terriers won 21 games in the 1993-94 season.

The Terriers have been red-hot over the last half of the 2009-10 season, having won 13 of their last 14 games, including having won eight straight. The Terriers have the best RPI (92) in the SoCon entering the final week of play in the regular-season. With its win at Georgia Southern on Saturday, the Terriers were able to clinch a bye in the opening round of the conference tournament.

With a game coming up against College of Charleston on Thursday night, the Terriers have struggled against the Cougars since CofC joined the SoCon as an official member prior to the 1998-99 season. Since CofC joined the SoCon in 1998-99, the two have squared off 26 times, with the Cougars holding a commanding 20-6 series edge. However, of those 26 meetings, an amazing 20 have been decided by 10 points or less and five of the past seven games have been decided by five points or less, with the past four meetings being decided by an average of a little over one point.

Coming into Thursday night's showdown, the Cougars have won three straight. No meeting between the two has had as much at stake in a regular-season meeting between the two as Thursday night's clash will. The only other meeting between the two schools that had possibly more on the line was the 2000 meeting between the two, when the Terriers and Cougars met for a right to go to the SoCon title game back in 2000. The Cougars went on to win that game, 74-64, at the Bi-LO Center in Greenville, S.C., before losing in the league title game to Appalachian State.

In Wofford's win at Georgia Southern on Saturday night, it was led once again by Noah Dahlman, who scored 21 points, while Jamar Diggs added 15 points, while Junior Salters, Brad Loesing, and Tim Johnson added 11 points apiece to round out the double-figure scorers in the six-point overtime win.

The Terriers continue to play well on the defensive end of the floor, entering the final week of the regular-season ranking third in the SoCon in scoring defense (61.8 PPG) and the Terriers rank fifth in field goal percentage defense, limiting their opponents to 43.8% shooting. Noah Dahlman has scored in double figures in all 29 games this season for Wofford and continues to lead the team in scoring and rank fourth in the league in scoring, averaging, at 17.3 PPG.

Dahlman is a candidate for player of the year in the league because he also ranks seventh in the league in rebounding (6.4 RPG) and fourth in field goal percentage (58.3%). He remains the only Terrier averaging in double figures, although Jamar Diggs (8.9) threatens to break into double figures in scoring before season's end. Tim Johnson continues his dominance on the glass, ranking fifth in the league and leading the Terriers on the glass, averaging 7.5 RPG.

After facing the Cougars on Thursday evening, the Terriers will close out the 2009-10 regular season facing The Citadel on Saturday evening at the Benjamin-Johnson Arena, as the Terriers will celebrate Senior Night.

3. Davidson (14-13, 9-6 SoCon)

Despite losing the players of the caliber of Stephen Curry, Andrew Lovedale and Max Paulhus-Gosselin from last year's SoCon regular-season championship team, Davidson still stands a great chance finish right where it was predicted by the coaches in the preseason voting—third place—which is pretty amazing when you consider how tough the South Division has been this season. The toughness of the South Division is revealed by the simple fact that the non-bye teams in the South Division have combined to win 48 games, while the non-bye North Division squads have just 38 wins and also the fact that both of the league's two top teams sport the league's top two RPI rankings, according to collegerpi.com.

The Wildcats were able to hold off a furious rally from Furman on Saturday afternoon at Belk Arena en route to earning a 61-58 win over the Paladins on Senior Day on Saturday afternoon at Belk Arena. With Davidson's win coupled with The Citadel's 59-53 setback UNC Greensboro on Saturday, the Wildcats were able to move into a half-game ahead of the Bulldogs for third place in the South Division standings, heading into the final week of regular season play.

Davidson is a team that could be spurred on by the home-town crowd when the tournament comes to Charlotte in a little over a week for the 90th renewal of the tourney. Davidson probably stands the best chance of winning the SoCon title of the team's that play on Friday. One tournament that immediately comes to mind is the 2000 SoCon Tournament in Greenville, S.C., when both Furman and Wofford both advanced to the semifinals after being cheered on by the local fans. Those two teams, though talented, lacked the experience of having been in pressure situations before and lacked the tradition that Davidson will have in its back pocket heading into the 2009-10 tournament.

Winners of six of its last eight games, Davidson heads into the final week facing two pretty difficult road games, facing contests at Chattanooga (Feb. 22) and Elon (Feb. 27) in the span of five days to close out the 2009-10 regular season.

In the win over the Paladins on Saturday, the story was again the play of freshman forward Jake Cohen, who will likely finish the season as the league's top frosh. Cohen scored 14 points, including hitting two crucial foul shots with 3.1 seconds remaining to help the Wildcats to the win. Cohen comes into the final week averaging 13.0 PPG, while classmate J.P. Kuhlman, also likely to be a SoCon All-Freshman Team selection, is second on the team in scoring average (12.5 PPG). Kuhlman was also strong in the win over the Paladins on Saturday, scoring 10 points, while William Archambault turned in a strong performance on Senior Day at Belk Arena, as the senior added 12 points off the bench in his final game in front of the Belk Arena faithful. Archambault rounds out the Wildcats averaging in double figures, at 11.1 PPG.

As a team, the Wildcats rank fourth in the league in scoring offense (70.8 PPG) and also rank fourth in the league in scoring defense (68.6 PPG). Despite ranking fourth in scoring defense, the Wildcats rank seventh in the league in field goal percentage defense (43.3%). One area that has remained a strength for Davidson this season and has been a staple of Bob McKillop-coached teams is outside shooting, as the Wildcats rank second to only College of Charleston in three-pointers made per game (8.6).

4. The Citadel (15-13, 9-7 SoCon)

The Citadel suffered a damaging 59-53 loss to UNC-Greensboro on Saturday at McAlister Field House in the Bulldogs' regular-season home finale. With the loss, the Bulldogs fell from their third-place perch in the South Division and now will have to battle to finish higher than Davidson in the league standings.

The Bulldogs' 35 wins over a in two seasons rank as the most wins in contiguous seasons in school history, besting the previous mark of 34 wins in back-to-back seasons set by the in 1984 and '85 by the Les Robinson-coached Bulldogs.

The Citadel has an upstate trip remaining to face both Furman and Wofford to close out the regular season, but coming away with a 2-0 record, playing at improved Furman on Thursday night and at red-hot Wofford on Saturday night won't be easy.

In the disappointing home loss to UNC Greensboro on Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs saw the Spartans mount a 17-4 run midway through the second half and held The Citadel to just 12 points over the final 12:44. The Spartans kept the Bulldogs off-balance for most of the afternoon by switching defenses, using a match up zone to cause the Bulldogs' offense plenty of confusion. The Bulldogs were led in scoring by Austin Dahn's 17 points, while leading scorer Cameron Wells added 14 points in the losing effort. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Bulldogs.

The Citadel remains one of the top defensive teams in the league, ranking second in the SoCon and 10th nationally in scoring defense, yielding just 59.5 PPG. The Bulldogs also rank third in the SoCon in field goal percentage defense (42.2%) and rank third in the league in defending the three (32.4 %). Individually, the Bulldogs continue to be led in scoring by Cameron Wells, who's averaging 17.4 PPG to rank third in the league in scoring. He's joined in double figures scoring average by Zach Urbanus' 10.9 PPG. The Bulldogs have been led on the glass by Wells, who leads all guards in the SoCon, averaging 5.6 RPG. Austin Dahn is adding 7.0 PPG and forward Harrison DuPont continues to be one of the top freshmen in the league, averaging 6.9 PPG.

5. Furman (12-15, 6-10)

With two games remaining in the 2009-10 regular season for the Furman Paladins, all seems to have been decided in the way of seeding for Fuman, as the Paladins appear to be headed for the fifth seed in the upcoming Southern Conference Tournament. It will mark the third straight season in which the Paladins have finished in the bottom three in the South Division. It will mark the sixth time this decade that Furman has finished in the bottom two in the South Division race.

The Paladins, who were picked to finish fifth by both the coaches and media, lost a pair of games by a combined total of just five points this past week, as the Paladins dropped a 61-58 decision at Davidson on Saturday, while dropping a 79-77 contest at Georgia Southern last Wednesday night. With one win, Furman could match its wins total from the previous two campaigns, as the Paladins won a combined 13 games in those preceding couple of seasons.

One more conference win in its last two games would give Furman its most conference wins since the 2006-07 season, when the Paladins won eight conference games. If the season ended today, the Paladins would face Chattanooga in the opening round of the league tournament. Furman defeated the Mocs, 87-78, at McKenzie Arena just last week and haven't faced the Mocs in the league tournament since the Butch Estes era, when the Paladins dropped an 85-81 quarterfinal round contest to the Mocs in Asheville, N.C., in Estes' final game as head coach back in 1994. Furman will close out its regular-season, facing The Citadel on Thursday night and will close out the campaign with hosting South Division leader College of Charleston.

In the 61-58 loss to Davidson on Saturday, which was the Paladins' 10th-straight loss to the Wildcats, Justin Dehm had a memorable afternoon for the Paladins, scoring 22 points to notch his best performance of the 2009-10 season. In doing so, Dehm hit a career-best six triples in the contest. He was the only Paladin in double figures, as Bryson Barnes and Amu Saaka ended the contest on the cusp of double figures, adding nine apiece. After trailing by double digits with a little over five minutes remaining, the Paladins mounted a furious rally to cut the deficit to two (57-55) with 1:24 to play, but Davidson hit its free throws down the stretch and Dehm's desperation heave at the buzzer from near mid-court was off the mark, as the Wildcats held on for the three-point win.

In the loss, Furman's two leading scorers, Amu Saaka and Jordan Miller, combined for only 13 points. The duo entered the game averaging a little over 30 PPG.

As a team, Furman enters the final week of the regular-season, ranking eighth in the league in scoring offense (69.0 PPG), while placing sixth in scoring defense (69.6 PPG). The Paladins continue to shoot the ball well from the charity stripe, connecting on 72.7-percent (466-of-633) of its freebies and rank third in the league in foul shooting. One thing Furman continues to do well on the defensive end is blocking shots, ranking second in the league in blocked shots (136 blocks/ 5.0 BPG). Individually, the Paladins continue to be paced in scoring by Amu Saaka, who's averaging 16.1 PPG, while Jordan Miller is adding 14.0 PPG. Saaka also leads Furman on the glass, ripping down 7.1 RPG.

6. Georgia Southern (7-21, 4-11 SoCon)

Georgia Southern is coming off a heartbreaking 82-76 overtime loss to Wofford on Saturday and appear to be locked into the sixth-place spot for the upcoming Southern Conference Tournament. The Eagles have been playing well of late and prior to the setback to South Division leader on Saturday, the Eagles got a 79-77 win over Furman on Wednesday night in a hard-fought victory. The Eagles will have one more chance to snap their 22-game losing streak, which dates back to last season, when they face Samford on tonight in Birmingham. The Eagles close out the 2009-10 campaign with a Mar. 1 game against Elon on Senior Night at Hanner Fieldhouse.

If the tournament started today, the Eagles would face UNC Greensboro in the Southern Conference Tournament coming up in a little over a week in Charlotte.

In the Eagles' six-point overtime setback to Wofford on Saturday afternoon, the Eagles got a big night from newcomer Rory Spencer, who had 19 points and seven rebounds prior to fouling out of the contest. The Eagles also got another strong performance from their talented back court, as Ben Drayton (15 pts.), Antonio Hanson (14 pts.) and Willie Powers III (12 pts.) combined for a bulk of the GSU scoring for the second-straight game, as the trio combined for 41 points. GSU showed its maturity under first-year head coach Charlton Young, battling back from two second-half double-digit deficits against arguably one of the league's top two teams.

As a team, the Eagles have caused opponents trouble all season with their full-court pressure, ranking second in the league in steals (8.4 SPG/236 steals). However, the real issues for Georgia Southern in Young's first season as head coach have come on the defensive end of the floor. GSU continues to rank last among the league's 12 members in scoring defense (78.6 PPG) and field goal percentage defense (50.6 %).

Individually, the Eagles are led in scoring by Willie Powers, who's averaging 14.9 PPG, while his back court mate Antonio Hanson is adding 11.9 PPG. Both Rory Spencer and Ben Drayton, who have been playing extremely well as of late for the Eagles, are on the brink of double figures, averaging 9.7 and 9.0 PPG, respectively. Johntavious Rucker leads the team on the boards, averaging 4.4 RPG.