Game 1 - The Citadel 78, Western Carolina 72
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Preston Parks scored 28 points to lead The Citadel to a 78-72 win over Western Carolina in the opening game of the Southern Conference Men’s Basketball Championship presented by General Shale. Parks, the league Freshman of the Year, out-dueled Catamounts junior Haboubacar Mutombo who poured in 25.
It was a back-and-forth affair with 12 ties and 10 lead changes. Mutombo’s 3pt at 7:02 gave the Catamounts a 62-61 lead. Just 40 seconds later, Parks provided the 10th lead switch with two free throws.
That started an 8-0 run for the Bulldogs extending to their largest advantage of seven, 69-62, on two Warren Sledge free tosses with just under five minutes to go. Western did not go quietly into that good night.
A layup and triple by Mutombo on back-to-back possessions cut the lead to just two, 69-67, at 3:24. Predictably, Parks and Mutombo traded threes on the next trips down the floor. After stops at both ends, Ezekiel Balogun on a nice pass from Zane Najdawi making it 74-70 with 1:15 to go.
The Cats turned it over on the offensive end, but created another chance with an Otto Steger steal with 35 ticks remaining. He drove to the paint, dished to his left but Adam Sledd’s layup rolled out. Parks got the rebound and his two free throws with 23.6 made it a six-point game with the Bulldogs settled into a win from there.
Parks was joined in double figures by Najdawi and Balogun with 16 and 10, respectively. Devin Peterson and Marc Gosselin had double-doubles for Western. Peterson turned in 14 points and 11 assists, while Gosselin tallied 10 points and 12 boards, seven on the offensive end.
The Bulldogs advance to the quarterfinals where they face UNCG at Noon Saturday on ESPN3 (WatchESPN App).
The Citadel (12-20) | Western Carolina (9-23)
Western Carolina: 18-3 advantage in second chance points. The Cats grabbed 20 offensive rebounds, 43 total.
The Citadel: Limited Western to 38.9 percent (28-72) shooting on the day…1st opponent to shoot less than 40 percent against the Bulldogs in 2016-17.
Western Carolina: First loss (8-1) when leading at halftime this season.
The Citadel: Just second win (2-18) when trailing at the half this year.
Game 2 - Samford 79, VMI 61
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Samford pulled away from VMI for a 79-61 first round win in the Southern Conference Men’s Basketball Championship presented by General Shale. The Bulldogs used a balanced, steady attack for the win.
Demetrius Denzel-Dyson scored 17 to lead the way for the victors. Christen Cunningham had 15, while Alex Thompson and Wyatt Walker added 13 apiece. Q.J. Peterson paced the Keydets with a game-high 26.
It was a nine-point game, 38-29, with 19:20 to go on an Adam Rich jumper. It swelled to 22, 63-41, over the next nine minutes with the 25-12 spurt ending on Thompson’s triple with 10:43 remaining.
Down 21, the Keydets weren’t done. Peterson spear-headed a 10-0 run to slice the margin to 11, 65-54. His three with 5:26 left was the closest they could get.
The Bulldogs head to the quarterfinals facing Furman at 6 p.m., Saturday on ESPN3 (WatchESPN App).
Samford (18-14) | VMI (6-24)
Samford: Led for 38:09 of the 40 minutes tonight never trailing to the Keydets.
VMI: 25-11 advantage in points off turnovers.
Samford: The Keydets 28.4 shooting performance tonight is a season-low for a Bulldogs opponent. Previous low was at Campbell in November. The Fighting Camel managed a 30.6 percent effort making 19 of 62 attempts.
VMI: Shot a season-low field goal percentage from the field tonight making 21 of 74.
Samford is 8-2 all-time in the series…3-0 in 2016-17…2-0 in the SoCon Tourney…2nd straight year the Bulldogs have eliminated the Keydets in the first round.