The Citadel (8-21) vs. Western Carolina (13-18)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 8, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Cellular Center (13,080) -- Asheville, North Carolina. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: The Citadel 5-9, WCU 7-6. Away Record: The Citadel 3-12, WCU 5-11. Neutral Record: The Citadel 0-0, WCU 1-1. Conference Record: The Citadel 5-13, WCU 9-9. Series Record: The Citadel leads, 34-29.
GAMES NOTES: In the final first-round contest of the Southern Conference Tournament the Western Carolina Catamounts will do battle with the Citadel Bulldogs at the U.S. Cellular Center on Friday night.
The Citadel traded wins and losses in its last four games of the season. Unfortunately that was actually a rather successful stretch for the Bulldogs who ended the season at just 8-21 overall and 5-13 in conference play. That was good enough for only the 11th seed in this season's tournament. The Citadel has never quite been able to figure out the SoCon Tournament with an 11-59 record in the event all-time, while being one of four current members to never capture a crown.
Western Carolina also swapped wins and losses in its last four games to take the sixth seed in the tournament. Though the Catamounts' seeding is certainly superior its not as if they were a powerful team this season. Western Carolina is just 13-18 overall and 9-9 in league action heading into the postseason. Western Carolina won its only SoCon title in 1996 but did make a surprise run to the finals a year ago before bowing to Davidson in double overtime.
When these teams met up earlier this season it was Western Carolina that earned the 72-55 victory. The Catamounts have now won three straight against the Bulldogs but it is the Citadel that owns the 34-29 edge in the all-time series.
The winner of this matchup will face No. 3 seed College of Charleston in the quarterfinal round on Saturday.
A second-half rally fell short for The Citadel in the regular season finale when it bowed to Wofford, 69-62. The Bulldogs trailed by 13 points going into the half but in the second period they nailed six 3-pointers and shot 40.7 percent from the floor to cut into the deficit. The rally came short as the Bulldogs were dominated on points in the paint, 36-16.
All-SoCon First-Team selection Mike Groselle (15.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg) anchors the Bulldogs in the paint as one of the most overlooked stars in the league. The 6-foot-8 center really played well down the stretch as he captured a pair of double-doubles while scoring 20 points three separate times in the last five games. Matt Van Scyoc (11.1 ppg) and P.J. Horgan (11.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg) provide additional offensive firepower but are the only other players scoring more than 6.5 points per game. As a team, the Citadel is among the top two teams in the conference in assists (15.1 pg) and field-goal percentage (.453) but it also surrenders 73.1 points per game on 47 percent shooting, while ranking second to last in the league on the boards (30.2 pg).
Mike Brown drilled a jumper shot as time expired to lift Western Carolina to a thrilling, 56-54, win in overtime in the regular-season finale against Samford. The game featured 16 ties and 12 lead changes but the 20-8 edge the Catamounts had in points off turnovers finally won out.
The Catamounts have their own All-SoCon First-Team member in Trey Sumler (17.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.6 apg) who did a bit of everything for them this season, while finishing as the second best scorer in the conference. Sumler had scored in double figures in nine straight games before sitting out against Samford, but he should be ready to go on Friday. Tawaski King (11.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) shoots better than 50 percent from the floor and will likely be matched up with Groselle up front, while Brandon Boggs (10.9 ppg) is a gunner from the outside. As a team, Western Carolina scored nearly as many points as surrendered with a scoring margin of -0.6.
Assuming Sumler is back on the floor for this matchup the Catamounts will have a real advantage against the Citadel. Expect Western Carolina to keep on playing into Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Carolina 70, The Citadel 61
03/08 10:35:23 ET