The Citadel at Samford (Southern)
Pete Hanna Center - Birmingham, AL
8:30 PM EST
It's easy to get caught up in the Davidson excitement. The Wildcats are 9-0, scoring 81 points against 67 allowed in league play, and they have this one player
who can shoot lasers out of his toes or something. They're really good, and they're getting better, and they're threatening to swallow the entire SoCon. But focus on that team, and you might miss some of the other fantastic stories that are playing out in the background.
Like The Citadel (10-10, 5-4 SoCon), for instance. Last year, the Bulldogs were the youngest team in Division I history, trotting out 11 freshmen and losing their only senior, Demetrius Nelson
, to a mid-season injury. Not that they had a chance for much beyond the 6-24 record they achieved, anyway -- this is a program whose greatest accomplishment is a book
written by an alumnus. The Bulldogs have never made the NCAA Tournament and haven't had a winning SoCon record since 2000-01. But this year, things are looking up. Nelson, granted a redshirt, is scoring 14.7 ppg and grabbing 6.1 rpg, and one of those frosh, 6-1 now-sophomore Cameron Wells
, is just ahead in scoring at 14.8. Add in a 3-point defense that's kicked in lately (league-low 30.1 percent allowed), and the Military College of South Carolina is earning a lot of respect for hoops-related efforts. The team's won three of four and sits in a third-place tie in the South division (well behind Davidson), and just completed a homestand sweep of Western Carolina
and city rival Charleston
. In the latter game, The Citadel overcame a 13-rebound deficit to break a 13-game losing streak in the series, and won its first against the Cougars since 2002.
Tonight, those Bulldogs will set their clocks back an hour, enter the Central time zone, and battle the league's newest Bulldogs. Samford has made two leaps in the past decade, moving from the old TAAC (now Atlantic Sun) to the OVC and now to the SoCon. Jimmy Tillette has been there the whole time, using a Princeton hybrid system to lull opponents into a false sense of excitement. Samford is above water at 5-4 too (10-8 overall), hoping that their early results aren't just another example of beginner's luck. The S-Dogs are on a four-game win streak capped by a 76-61 win over UNC Greensboro, a game paced by 6-6 junior Bryan Friday's
20 points and 7 rebounds. Samford leads the league in shooting (50 percent in SoCon games) and turnovers (just 10.9 per game), and commits the second-least fouls in the nation at 13.9, which combined with all the 35-second clock milking makes for some pretty quick games. So don't arrive late... besides, the new Pete Hanna Center is lovely, and any trip there requires some time to contemplate its namesake's portrait
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