No. 8 The Citadel 78, No. 9 VMI 70
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The Citadel's Zane Najdawi led all scorers with 16 points as the Bulldogs erased an early first-half deficit and downed VMI 78-70 Friday in the first round of the 2018 Southern Conference Basketball Championship presented by General Shale at the U.S. Cellular Center. The win sets up a quarterfinal matchup between the Bulldogs and top-seeded UNCG on Saturday at noon.
VMI jumped out to an early lead and held a 29-19 advantage with 5:29 remaining in the first half. From there, the Bulldogs used a 23-7 run that spanned the end of the first half and into the second frame to take the lead for good. The Keydets pulled to game to within three (73-30) with 2:45 to play but would not score the remainder of the game as The Citadel knocked down five free throws to secure the win.
Najdawi was one of four Bulldogs in double figures. Matt Frierson and Frankie Johnson each added 12 for the No. 8 seed, while Hayden Brown added 11 off the bench. The Bulldogs limited VMI to just 37.1 percent shooting in the contest, yielding just 12-of-37 from the field in the second half.
Keith Smith paced the Keydets with 15 points, while Jordan Ratliffe posted 13 points and four rebounds for VMI. Austin Vereen led all players with 11 rebounds in defeat.
ON THE RECORD
The Citadel: 11-20
The Citadel dropped both games to VMI in the regular season but moved to 3-0 against VMI all-time in the Southern Conference Championship. The Bulldogs posted wins over VMI in the 1998 quarterfinals (77-66) and in the first round of the 2002 tournament (80-70).
The league's Freshman of the Year, as selected by the media, was VMI's Bubba Parham. The last Freshman of the Year to see his team win the tournament was Davidson's Stephen Curry in 2007.
- The Bulldogs have given up 89.2 points per game this season but limited VMI to 70 points in the win.
- VMI averaged just 2.8 blocked shots per game this season but tallied seven rejections Friday night.
No. 10 Chattanooga 89, Samford 79
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Makinde London tallied a double-double with game highs in points (25) and rebounds (14) to lead Chattanooga to an 89-79 victory over Samford in the opening round of the 2018 Southern Conference Championship presented by General Shale. The win by the No. 10 seed Mocs sets up a quarterfinal showdown against No. 2 seed ETSU on Saturday at 5 p.m.
The Mocs used a 15-5 run over the final five minutes of the first half to take a 39-35 advantage into halftime. Chattanooga shot 12-of-27 from beyond the arc in the win and outscored Samford 43-8 in bench points.
The Bulldogs took the lead midway through the second half (66-65) before the Mocs surged ahead with a 15-4 run to take a 77-70 lead they would not relinquish.
Demetrius Denzel-Dyson led Samford with 20 points, while Justin Coleman set a new Southern Conference tournament record with 15 assists. Eric Adams tallied a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs.
ON THE RECORD
- These two teams met in the 2016 tournament, with the Mocs taking a 59-54 victory. The Mocs have gone on to win the Southern Conference tournament the last two years they beat Samford in the tourney (2009, 2016).
- Chattanooga leads all current Southern Conference programs with 56 all-time wins in the league tournament
- Justin Coleman etched his name in the league record books with his 15 assists. The previous record was 13 assists, set by VMI's Richard Little against Chattanooga in 2003.
- Chattanooga's 89 points were the most the Mocs have scored in regulation this season since a 95-60 win over Tennessee Wesleyan on Nov. 25.