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Southern Conference Quarterfinals

March 8, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Southern Conference Quarterfinals

by Mike Baller


Everything is going as planned in the Southern Conference
Tournament . . . almost. It’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the top half of the bracket and the No. 2
seed is into the semis in the lower bracket. The one unforeseeable disruption
the seeders did not account for is the run being made those pesky Keydets of
the Virginia Military Institute.

Georgia Southern vs. Charleston

In the first quarterfinal game of the day, the College of Charleston
(24-6, 13-3) defeated Georgia Southern 67-53 in front of an essentially home
crowd at the North Charleston Coliseum. The Cougars came out icy shooting
just 19.2% from the field in the first half and falling behind early in the
game. Charleston grinded their way through the opening half led by junior
forward Thomas Mobley who finished with a team high 15 points. It was a 27-22
Charleston lead at the half.

The Cougars put the Eagles away in the second half thanks in part to an
18-7 run in which five C of C players scored from the field. Center Mike
Benton recorded an 11/10 double double along with three blocked
shots. Senior shooting guard Troy Wheless, the SoCon player of the year as
voted by the coaches, left the game in the first half with a twisted knee. He
returned to score 11 points including a 7-7 effort from the freebie stripe.

It was a disappointing finish for the Eagles, who end the season
16-14, 8-9. Senior guard Julius Jenkins poured in 20 points in his final
appearance for Georgia Southern. “I was devastated this was my last game.
Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose… we didn’t get it done
today,” said the SoCon star following the loss.

East Tennessee State vs. Wofford

The second game of the afternoon saw the Buccaneers of ETSU oust Wofford
Terriers 80-75. This game was close throughout, tied 33-33 at half and just
a two point advantage for the Bucs with 21 seconds remaining. ETSU was led by
forward Jerald Fields and guard Tim Smith who had 19 and 23 points
respectively.

“Jerald and Timmy stepped up big for us todayand gave us a strong
inside-outside presence. The three-pointers that Timmy hit late in the game
were huge,” said Head Coach Ed DeChellis at the press conference after the
game.

Senior guard Lee Nixon finished with 13 points for the Terriers in a
homecoming final game of sorts. “It really worked out to come home and play
in front of my mom and dad. It’s a tough loss, and we don’t like to lose. It
hurts right now,” said Nixon.

VMI vs. Davidson

The midseason departure of sophomore phenom Jason Conley, who transferred
to Missouri
, may have been a blessing in disguise for the VMI Keydets. Prior
to the exit of Conley, VMI was a team of average players relative to SoCon
standards – save junior forward Radee Skipworth – utilizing a game plan
intensely focused on a single player (Conley), considered one of the best in
the country. It must have been difficult for the role players to have any
real sense of worth when their sole purpose is basically to contribute to the
success of one star player.

After watching their double digit lead in the second half dwindle to 2
points with under four minutes to play, the group of Keydets showed they
could make valuable individual contributions to help hold off the No. 1 Seed in
the North Division and earn a 66-60 victory over Davidson. Junior guards
Richard Little and Ben Rand knocked down clutch free throws late to help
sustain the victory. The large individual contribution came from Skipworth
who finished with 36 points in the upset. Less than a week ago the Wildcats
crushed VMI by 35 points 84-39.

Appalachian State vs. UT-Chattanooga

The last quarterfinal was an even match-up on paper going into the
game, Appalachian State (19-9, 11-5) and Chattanooga (19-8, 11-5). On the court,
however, it was a different story. Three Moc guards posted 20+ point
performances from Tim Parker 21, Ray Trowell 22, and Jason Rogan 25. Final score: Chattanooga 98, Appalachian State 67

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