By Matt Hill
Samford 78, UNCG 69
Jermaine Marshall is back and that spells trouble for SoCon opponents. In the biggest game of the year in the Southern Conference, Marshall had 16 points in just 12 minutes coming off the bench as Samford rallied from a rough first half to defeat the Spartans to take a two-game lead heading into weekend play in the Southern Conference.
Samford is one of the most balanced teams in the country and it showed again Thursday night as Jaden Campbell led the way with 17 points, followed by Achor Achor with 16 points and seven rebounds. The game definitely started out looking like it was going to go the other direction. The Spartans came out on fire in the first half and when Keshawn Langley hit his third trey of the contest, the Spartans held a 26-19 advantage. Langley tallied 19 points on the night. His brother Kobe Langley netted 10 and then Mikeal Brown Jones had 15 and 11 rebounds. Keshawn Langley continued his torrid first half with a slam that put the Spartans ahead 33-26 with 4:30 left in the half.
In the second half, UNCG held on to the advantage at 48-45 with 14:50 left, but then that is when the Bulldogs made their run. Marshall then made his presence felt as he hit one from downtown and Samford went up 50-48. It was a lead it never relinquished. Samford led 65-62 in the final minutes and then with 1:18 to go in the game the Bulldogs were up 71-62 and the celebration in Birmingham had begun.
After breaking the press and converting for a layup Samford was in front 74-64 and went on to win.
Barring something unexpected it is looking more and more like Samford is going to be the SoCon regular season champion and will be the top seed when the SoCon Tournament begins in Asheville, NC on March 8.
Bucky McMillian, who came to Samford as a local high school coach, has proved everyone wrong and showed that was a tremendous hire by the administration at Samford.
The Bulldogs are now the overwhelming favorite after a blowout win over Chattanooga and this impressive road win over UNCG to cut down the nets in Asheville.
Chattanooga 89, UNCG 61
The Spartans couldn't recover from the setback on Thursday night and Chattanooga was hitting everything in sight to take a convincing victory over a team that just played for first place in the SoCon two days earlier.
The Mocs, led by sharp shooter Trey Bonham who had 31 points and seven assists on the night, went into Greensboro and made a statement that you better not give up on them.
After a blowout loss to Samford and a very close shave against VMI, there were some doubts lingering but the Mocs are now looking more like the team that won seven-straight prior to the Samford defeat.
Honor Huff added 15 for Chattanooga.
Samford 102, VMI 63
The Bulldogs led throughout and had no trouble with the Keydets
It was another balanced effort minute wise and score wise as no player played over 20 minutes.
Rylan Jones and Jaden Campbell had 16 points to lead Samford and AJ Staton-McCray had 13,
Tashead Jackson had 16 points and seven rebounds to pace VMI.
Western Carolina 79, Mercer 48
In another blowout, the Catamounts had four guys in double figures and cruised to the victory over the Bears.
Vonterius Woolbright and Tre Jackson topped WCU with 16 points. David Thomas had 18 to lead Mercer.
Furman 65, ETSU 63
In what was the only real competitive game of the day in the SoCon, the Paladins erased a near double digit ETSU lead in the final few minutes to take a win back to Greenville, South Carolina in what has been a very difficult week on the Furman campus.
The Furman basketball team's hearts were heavy after football player Bryce Stansfield collapsed during a workout this week and passed away. They went out and gave their campus at least a little reprieve for a bit.
ETSU led 54-45 in the second half when Jayden Parker scored and was fouled and this game looked over. However, turnovers plagued ETSU in the final minutes and Furman was able to get back into the game.
Furman tied it at 63-63 and then with 1.8 seconds left J.P.Pegues hit 2 foul shots and Furman had taken one away from the Bucs.
Pegues tallied 15 points and Marcus Foster had 11 points and 8 rebounds to top the Paladins.
Amazingly, ETSU had five players in double figures led by Quimari Peterson with 14 and then Jadyn Parker with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Wofford 77, The Citadel 64
In the final game of the weekend in the SoCon, The Citadel came out on fire but Wofford outscored the Bulldogs 46-31 in the second half in what became a convincing win.
The Citadel led 33-31 at halftime and was once again threatening an upper division team in the Southern Conference, but just when you thought the Bulldogs were going to get their first SoCon win, the Terriers responded.
Wofford put on a clinic with everyone getting involved. In the end, the Terriers were just too strong.
Dillon Bailey and Beial El Shakey had 15 points and Kyle Filewich had six rebounds for the Terriers..
AJ Smith and Madison Durr combined for 44 of The CItadel's 64 points with Smith leading all scorers with 27 and Durr had 17 for the Bulldogs.
Mercer 78, Furman 69
Jalyn McCreary finished with 28 points and eight rebounds for Mercer as the Bears pulled off the upset.
The win was huge for the Bears who are still holding out slim hopes to avoid playing the first round of the Southern Conference Tournament that first Friday in March.
It was the second-straight loss for Furman.
Western Carolina 71, The Citadel 64.
Southern Conference Player of the Year candidate Vonterius Woolbright had a monster night with a double double of 27 and 11 rebounds and the Catamounts won a tight one against the Bulldogs.
It was the second week in a row The Citadel put a scare to an upper division SoCon Team only to fall at the end.
ETSU 57, Wofford 50
The shots weren't falling for ETSU all night, but the Bucs used a grinding defensive effort to take its greatest SoCon win of the year.
The game was a slugfest with neither team shooting the ball well at all. ETSU led 26-22 at halftime as both teams shot around 35 percent in the first half.
"It was a gutsy performance,"ETSU head coach Brooks Savage said on the Buccaneer Sports Radio Network. "I am proud of this group. We are continuing to carve out our identity. We are going to win with defense. It was a great effort."
Jaden Seymour led all scorers with 15 for ETSU while Karon Boyd had 14 points and 8 rebounds. Corey Tripp was the only Terrier in double figures with 13 points.
Chattanooga 88, VMI 84
In what was nearly the upset of the year in the Southern Conference as 4-20 VMI with one conference win over winless The Citadel, gave the Mocs everything they wanted in Dan Earl's return to Lexington where he coached for five years.
It was obvious that VMI was really up for this game and most likely it did have to do with Earl returning after taking a job in-conference.
VMI is a very difficult place to win at and the fact he got VMI to .500 while he was there was a huge accomplishment.
Still, not many people expected VMI to play with the Mocs and that is what the Keydets did.
It was a tight game throughout as Chattanooga led 45-40 at halftime and then VMI took the game down the wire before the Mocs held on at the end.
Honor Huff led Chattanooga with 22 followed by former VMI player Trey Bonham with 15 and Sam Alexis had 14 points and 12 rebounds.