King’s 42 points highlights a big Wednesday night in the SoCon

Jordan King’s response to going 0-of-9 from the field and not knocking down a three-pointer in a game for the first time in his career (35 games) as a Buccaneer was respond emphatically, and that was by posting a career and SoCon season-high 42 points, which included knocking down eight three-pointers en route to leading East Tennessee State what was an emphatic 96-74 beat-down of The Citadel in Charleston.

King’s night highlighted one around the league some pretty significant night for individual scoring and career high point totals in some of the league tilts, with all five matchups resulting in wins that came in blowout fashion.

For King and his Bucs, it was the Bucs seventh of the season, including their third away from Freedom Hall in a true road game, as ETSU improved to 7-11 overall and 3-2 in Southern Conference action. It was a night that would see the Bucs return to full strength, as both Brock Jancek and Josh Taylor returned to the lineup for ETSU. The Citadel fell to 6-11 overall and 1-4 in league play.

King finished the contest by connecting on 14-of-19 shots from the field, including 8-of-12 from three-point land in the ETSU win. He also went 6-for-7 from the charity stripe.

King’s 42-point effort marked the most points in a game by a Southern Conference player since November of 2018, when Furman’s Jordan Lyons scored 54 points in a win over North Greenville. It’s the most by a SoCon player against a SoCon opponent since February of 2018, when Fletcher Magee scored 45 points in a win over Chattanooga.

The 42 points by King were the most against The Citadel since 1988, when Marshall’s Skip Henderson went for 55 points against the Bulldogs in a Southern Conference Tournament game.

The scoring total by King is also the third-most in ETSU single-game history, while marking the 10th Bucs player to post at least 40 points in a game. Finally, the 42 points by King are tied for the sixth-most scored by a player in Division I basketball this season. King joined former Bucs Tom Chilton, Dimeco Childress, T.J. Cromer, Tim Smith and Harley “Skeeter” Swift as the only Bucs to score at least 40 points in a game.

King’s performance helped the Bucs avenge what was an 84-76 overtime loss last March in Asheville, ending ETSU Southern Conference Tournament before it really had a chance to get underway at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in what was the opening game of the 2022 SoCon Tournament.

The Bucs’ 96 points were 40 more than their 56 against preseason favorite Furman the previous time out in what was a 14-point setback at Freedom Hall. It was King that helped the Bucs fashion a season-high 96 points in the process.

The win by the Bucs saw them improve to 7-11 overall record and 3-2 record in league play, snapping what had been a two-game losing skid. A good sign for ETSU was 17 assists on 34 made field goals. The Bucs also knocked down an impressive 53.1% (34-of-64) shots from the field, which included a 50.0% (12-of-24) effort from three-point land.

The Bucs return to action Saturday when ETSU returns to Freedom Hall to face Mercer in a 4 p.m. contest. It will also be the Nexstar SoCon Game of the Week. The Citadel will continue its homestand by welcoming Western Carolina to McAlister Field House in a 1 p.m. EST contest at McAlister Field House.

Chattanooga grad transfer center Jake Stephens (photo courtesy of Chattanooga athletics

The marquee matchup of the night was supposed to be between Chattanooga and Western Carolina at the Roundhouse. However, the game didn’t exactly live up to the hype, as the Mocs had their way in the matchup and like ETSU did on the road, put up big scoring night at home, coasting to a 95-76 win over the Catamounts.

Also like the Bucs, the Mocs scored a season-high for points (95) against a Division I foe in the win over their visitors from Cullowhee. The Mocs scored a season-high 42 points in the paint, and tied a season-high for made free throws (24) in the win.

As you might have guessed, Jake Stephens was a big reason for another successful night in the paint for the Mocs, as he posted 35 points, ripped down 10 rebounds and dished out five assists as a part of another extremely efficient offensive evening for head coach Dan Earl’s Mocs, as UTC knocked down a sizzling 60.8% (31-of-51) shots from the field in the win. The Mocs also connected on 9-of-21 three-point shots in the home win.

The win saw the Mocs improve to 11-7 overall and 3-2 in league play, while Western Carolina saw its three-game winning streak snapped, falling to 10-8 overall and 3-2 in SoCon action.

For Stephens, it was his 11th double-double of the season, and he became the first player in UTC history to record back-to-back games of 35 points and 10 rebounds in a game. In Chattanooga’s win over VMI this past Saturday, Stephens posted 37 points and 11 rebounds in an 85-78 win over his former team. Stephens scored 25 of his 35 points in the first half. The 35-point effort by the VMI graduate transfer also marked the fourth game of the season with 30 or more points. He connected on 13-of-18 shots from the field, including going 2-of-4 from three-point land. He was also 7-for-8 from the line.

Stephens was joined in double figures by three other players, with Demetrius Davis adding 13 points, while Jamal Johnson and Dalvin White concluded the night with 12 points apiece.

As far as the series is concerned, it marked the 100th all-time hardwood clash between the Mocs and Catamounts, with UTC claiming its 70th win in series history.

In the losing effort for Western Carolina, Vonterius Woolbright posted a career-high 24 points and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. Tyzhaun Claude continued his strong season in the Purple and Gold by adding 19 points and five boards, while Tre Jackson and Russell Jones Jr. added 14 and 10 points, respectively, to round out the Catamounts in double figures.

The first half was hard-fought, with Western Carolina holding a 20-14 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining in the opening half.

However, a 13-4 run by the Mocs saw them pull ahead 27-24 on Stephens layup with 7:20 remaining in the opening half. The Mocs would extend their lead to as much as 10 on three occasions over the final seven minutes and change before settling for a seven-point, 46-39, halftime lead. A Russell Jones Jr triple as time expired in the opening half should seemingly have given the Catamounts the momentum heading into the half.

The Catamounts did keep within striking distance until the first stoppage of the second half, and even trimmed a point off the Mocs lead, as UTC headed to the first media timeout of the second half ahead by six, at 55-49.

UTC used a 10-0 spurt to open up its biggest lead of the night to that point, at 69-51, on a KC Hankton triple with 11:46 remaining. From that point, Chattanooga controlled the game, never letting Western Carolina get closer than 13 points the rest of the way.

Chattanooga will be on the road Saturday to face red-hot and league-leading Samford in a 6 p.m. EST contest, which is slated to be televised by ESPNU. Western Carolina will continue on the road with a trip to Charleston for a 1 p.m. game with The Citadel.

Mercer guard Jah Quinones (photo courtesy of Mercer athletics)

While Chattanooga is favored to win the title this season and claimed its second win in succession over Western Carolina at home, the team favored to claim the 2022-23 SoCon title–the Furman Paladins–were on the road looking for their third-straight win overall and 16th-straight win over Mercer in the series, as the Paladins headed to Macon for a league battle with the Bears.

Marcus Foster went off again in the opening half of play, posting 18 of his game and career-high 25 points in the opening half of play, as the Paladins came away from Macon, GA, with an 84-66 Southern Conference victory over the Bears Wednesday night at Hawkins Arena.

The wins sees the Paladins improve to 13-5 overall and 4-1 in SoCon basketball action, while Mercer drops to 7-11 overall and 0-5 in Southern Conference action. It marks the first time since joining the Southern Conference in 2014-15 that the Bears have gone winless in their first five SoCon games.

Foster’s big night was highlighted by another outstanding shooting effort from three-point range, as he connected on 6-of-7 shots from long-range, including knocking down all five of his long-range efforts in the opening half. For the game, the Atlanta, GA, native connected on 7-of-9 shots from the field and was 5-for-6 from the free throw line. In addition to his career-high scoring performance, Foster also led the Paladins on the backboards, ripping down seven rebounds. Through the first five Southern Conference games, Foster has knocked down 20 three-pointers in Southern Conference play, which is more than any other player in the league. When you consider he didn’t score against Western Carolina, he’s canned those 20 triples in those four Paladin league wins. Overall, he’s shooting 55.6% (20-of-36) from three-point land since the start of league play, which ranks him fifth overall in three-point shooting in league play.

After finishing the win over ETSU connecting on 5-of-10 from long range against ETSU, Foster’s 6-of-7 performance as a part of his career-high scoring night means the Atlanta, GA., native is 11-of-17 from three in his last two games, meaning the junior is connecting on 64.7% from three-point range over the past two games.

Foster was one of three Paladins in double figures in the opening half of play, as both Mike Bothwell and Jalen Slawson both provided their usually efficient scoring nights, as the all-conference duo posted 17 and 15 points, respectively, in the win for Furman. Bothwell finished the night connecting on 7-of-12 shots from the field, including going 1-for-2 from three-point range. The senior from Cleveland Heights, OH, also connected on 2-for-4 from the charity stripe. He also ripped down a pair of rebounds and dished out one assist.

Slawson added his 15 on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and was 1-of-1 from three-point land. Dating back to his 2-for-2 from three-point range against ETSU, the senior from Summerville, S.C., has now hit his past three from long-range. He was also 2-for-3 from the foul line. In addition to his scoring total, Slawson also dished out five assists, five rebounds and had one block.

Evidence of Furman’s strong improvements on the defensive end of the floor were evident once again this evening. Fresh off holding ETSU’s leading scorer Jordan King 0-for-9 from the line a total of five points for the game, the Paladins turned around and held Mercer’s Jalyn McCreary, who came into the contest averaging 15.5 PPG to lead the Bears, was held to 0-of-6 shooting from the field with no points. That means in the past two games Furman has held the opposing team’s leading scorer to a combined 0-for-15 shooting from the field and a total of five points.

Since the start of league play, the Paladins have held VMI’s Sean Conway (8 pts), WCU’s Tyzhaun Claude (7 pts), The Citadel’s Austin Ash (8 pts), ETSU’s Jordan King (5 pts), and now Mercer’s Jalyn McCreary (0 pts) well below their respective scoring averages entering the contest. Those players have been held to 7-of-42 shooting (16.6%) from the field, which includes a 1-for-13 effort from three-point land.  

The Bears failed to reach 70 points in a league game for the fifth-straight contest and had four players finish the night in double figures. Shannon Grant led the way for the Bears with 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field. Grant also added six rebounds and a pair of assists to finish out his most complete effort of the season. The other three Mercer players in double figures in the contest were Kam Robertson and Jah Quinones adding 12 points apiece, while James Glisson III rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Bears with 10.

Furman finished the night connecting on 51.9% (28-of-54) of its shots from the field, which included a 62.5% (10-of-16) performance from three-point range in the contest. Furman finished the game connecting on 75.0% (18-of-24) from the free throw line.

Mercer finished the night connecting on 41.9% (26-of-62) from the field, however, struggled shooting the ball from the perimeter, knocking down just 20.0% (3-of-15) from three-point range in the loss. The Bears knocked down 73.3% (11-of-15) from the charity stripe.

Furman returns to Timmons Arena to face another legitimate SoCon title-contender, in UNC Greensboro, while Mercer will be in Johnson City to take on East Tennessee State. Both games are slated for 4 p.m. tip-offs.

Logan Dye after one of his three made three-pointers (photo courtesy of Samford athletics)

Much like its football team did this past fall, Samford’s basketball team has gotten off to a fast and furious start to league play. Whether or not the Bulldogs are able to match the football team and finish off what would be an unprecedented unbeaten league campaign on the hardwood remains to be seen, however, head coach Bucky McMillan’s club are almost one-third of the way there following an 83-58 smashing of Wofford at the Pete Hanna Center Wednesday night in Homewood.

The win saw the Bulldogs improve to 11-7 overall and 5-0 in league play–its best start since joining the SoCon in 2008–while Wofford fell to 10-8 overall and 2-3 in SoCon action.

The Bulldogs rout of Wofford came as a result of another strong shooting night by Samford, connecting on 53% (32-of-60) from the field and had 18 assists to only nine turnovers to claim the win in blowout fashion. The Bulldogs set a season-high for made three-point field goals for a third-straight game, knocking down 41% (16-of-39) from long distance in the win.

Logan Dye continued his outstanding start to SoCon play, as he finished with a team-high 19 points on an 8-of-11 shooting performance from the field. Dye was one of four Bulldogs to finish the night in double figures, and he continues to make a claim to be considered in the league’s Player of the Year conversation, as he went 3-for-4 from three-point range, while also pulling down a pair of rebounds, and blocked a shot and recorded a steal.

A.J. Staton-McCray provided yet another strong night off the bench for the Bulldogs, as he had 16 points off the bench for Samford. He went 6-of-7 from the field and like Dye, went 6-for-7 from beyond the arch. He also added five rebounds and dished out a pair of helpers.

Rounding out the double-figure scorers for the Bulldogs were preseason All-SoCon selection Jermaine Marshall, who finished with 11 points, while Jaden Campbell added 10.

Playing at home has been something that has been a strength for the Bulldogs, dating back to last season, especially against Southern Conference foes. With Wednesday night’s win over Wofford, the Bulldogs claimed what was their ninth-straight SoCon win at home.

Samford jumped out to a quick 9-3 lead, as much like the Furman-Mercer game, the contest started in could best be described as a fast and furious fashion. Wofford eventually fought back to tie the game, 12-12, on a Kyler Filewich layup, however, Bubba Parham answered with a triple that would spark a 19-8 run, ending with the Bulldogs taking their biggest lead of the night to that point at 32-20 following a Jaron Rillie layup with just under four minutes remaining in the first half.

After Wofford closed the gap to within 10 on a Chase Martin layup moments later, the Bulldogs closed the half in emphatic fashion, using a 15-5 spurt, which was capped by one of Dye’s three three-pointers to take 43-27 lead to the break.

The Bulldogs would eventually grow that lead to 20 (56-36) on a Staton-McCray triple with 13:18 left, and after another 14-3 run, the Bulldogs increased the lead to 30, at 70-40, with a rim-rocking slam from Jaden Campbell, which sent the Pete Hanna Center crowd into a frenzy with 9:35 remaining.

The Bulldogs never looked back, getting the final 13 points of the night from their bench, as Samford coasted to a fifth-straight Southern Conference win, and its 13th win in its last 16 Southern Conference regular-season games, dating back to last season.

Wofford, which was playing its ninth game under interim head coach Dwight Perry, was led by a couple of players in double figures, with talented freshman performer Jackson Paveletzke and junior guard Corey Tripp finishing with 12 points apiece.

The Terriers continued their struggles shooting the basketball from three-point range since the start of SoCon play, connecting on just 6-of-21 shots from long-range, finishing by connecting on just 28.6% from long range. As a team, the Terriers shot 42.9% (21-of-49) for the game.

Wofford has connected on just 24.3% (28-of-115) from three-point land since the start of Southern Conference play, ranking ninth out of the 10 teams in the SoCon through five games.

Samford will host Chattanooga in a 6 p.m. EST contest that will be nationally televised on ESPNU on Saturday evening. The Mocs are one of those three teams to defeat the Bulldogs in its last 16 regular-season games, claiming a 70-57 win over the Bulldogs in the regular-season finale at the Roundhouse on Feb. 26, 2022.

Wofford returns to the hardwood Saturday evening, as the Terriers will host VMI at Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium in a tip-off slated for 7 p.m.

UNCG senior guard Keyshaun Langley (photo courtesy of UNCG athletics)

The final game of the night saw one of the deepest and most mature teams in the SoCon and in the country playing one of the youngest, as UNCG headed to Cameron Hall to take on a gritty VMI team that favored a slower, more half-court game under its first-year head coach Andrew Wilson, however, it was Mike Jones’ Spartans that would dictate the rules of engagement, getting an impressive 72-57 road win.

The win by UNCG was likely the kind of leadership he was looking for following what had been a particularly tough home loss last time out this past Saturday, with what was a 70-68 setback this past Saturday at the Greensboro Coliseum to league-leading Samford.

With the win, UNCG improved to 11-7 overall and 4-1 in league play, marking the Spartans’ best start to SoCon play since the 2018-19 season. The Spartans started strong and never looked back, using a 14-2 run in the opening eight minutes to take control of the basketball game from the outset.

The Keydets would whittle down the Spartans lead to just six, at 21-15, following a Tyler Houser layup with 6:36 remaining in the half. A little over three minutes later, the Keydets would slice UNCG’s lead to just a bucket, at 24-22, following back-to-back triples from Rickey Bradley and Asher Woods, as well as a foul shot by Woods, trimming UNCG’s just a possession with 3:25 to play in the opening half.

However, UNCG would offer a response that tells you something about both its maturity and championship pedigree that are still ever-present from a couple of years ago, with several of those core players still around. UNCG scored the final seven points of the half, with all of them coming from players that were on that 2021 SoCon Tournament title-winning team, as Keyshawn Langley connected on a layup and a triple, while Mohammed Abdulsalam had an offensive rebound and put-back to stake the Spartans to a 31-22 halftime lead.

In the second half, the two teams traded buckets early and UNCG maintained its nine-point, 36-27, lead when VMI went on a mini-run of its own, using an 11-8 run to get within six, at 44-38, following a triple by Woods with 13:23 left.

However, UNCG responded with a quick 8-3 spurt to take back control of the game and extend its lead back out to 11, at 52-41, following a Keyshaun Langley made jumper with 10:37 remaining.

VMI would threaten to make a charge at the Spartans at least three times over the final 10 minutes, getting with seven three times, with the latest coming on a Tyler Houser jumper with 8:23 remaining, getting the Keydets to within 54-47, however, the Spartans defensive would hold the Keydets to just 10 points and four field goals over the final eight minutes en route to picking up its fourth true road win of the season, including its third in SoCon play.

At the center of that strong start for head coach Mike Jones’ club was Keyshaun Langley, who scored 16 of his career-high 25 points in the opening half of play. The All-SoCon senior guard connected on 10-of-13 shots from the field, which was highlighted by a 4-of-6 effort from three-point land. Langley also had a block, an assist, a rebound and a steal to go with his career-high scoring effort.

Langley was joined in double figures by forward Bas Leyte (14 pts) and Keondre Kennedy (12 pts), rounding out a solid shooting effort in a tough road environment, as the Spartans finished the game with a 49.1% (27-of-55) shooting clip, including a 42.1% (8-for-19) performance from three-point land.

VMI finished the contest with three in double figures, as Woods paced VMI with 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field, including 2-of-4 from three-point land, and 4-of-5 from the line. He was joined by Rickey Bradley and Tyler Houser, who each added 13 in the losing effort.

At the heart of everything that UNCG is about is its performance and for the fourth time in five SoCon games this season, the Spartans used that edge to garner another win. UNCG held VMI to just 57 points, which is the fourth time in five SoCon games and eighth time in its past nine outings that the Spartans have held their opposition to less than 70 points in a game.

Samford, which defeated the Spartans 70-68 Saturday afternoon, is the only opponent in UNCG’s last night games to reach the 70-point mark. The Spartans are 6-3 in their last nine games, and the only teams that have defeated the Spartans when scoring less than 70 points over that span include No. 9 Arkansas (L, 58-65) and OVC member Eastern Kentucky (L, 64-68). UNCG is 1-4 when allowing more than 70 points this season.

Not only did the Spartans limit the Keydets to less than 70 points, but also held the Keydets to just 38.9% (21-of-54) from the field, including just a 28.6 (6-of-21) effort from three-point land.

UNCG heads to Furman for a 4 p.m. battle with Furman at Timmons Arena, while VMI will be on the road to take on Wofford in a 7 p.m. clash at Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium in Spartanburg.

SoCon Power Rankings as of Jan. 12, 2023

  1. Furman (13-5, 4-1 SoCon)–Buoyed by Marcus Foster, the Paladins are hitting at high levels on both ends of the floor over its last three games, and playing at that level, it’s going to be tough for anyone to beat them. However, as we witnessed in Cullowhee, Western Carolina figured out a way to neutralize Foster, holding him scoreless, leading to the Paladins’ lone conference loss. The Paladins have the top record in the league, and three of its best non-conference wins, with victories over WAC-leading Stephen F. Austin (12-5, 4-0 WAC), Missouri Valley second-place Belmont (12-6, 5-2 MVC) and South Carolina (8-8, 1-2 SEC), who just knocked off Kentucky.
  2. Samford–Samford is clearly the hottest team in the SoCon, and have won five-straight, figuring out how to play without Ques Glover while he has been injured. With Glover expected back soon, it could make Bucky McMillan’s crew even tougher as we get into the meat of SoCon play.
  3. UNCG–Mike Jones will have the Spartans in championship contention all season because of the way they play on the defensive end. The Spartans, who have won a league-best 167 league games since the start of the 2015-16 season, will be in Greenville to face Furman–a team that has won 166 league games in that same span–in Saturday’s marquee clash atop the league standings.
  4. Chattanooga –While UNCG has its collective defensive effort, Chattanooga has Jake Stephens, and he’s been absolutely the league’s most dominant big man to this point in the season. Stephens and the Mocs will go in search of their biggest win of the season Saturday at Samford in a 4 p.m. game at the Hanna Center. It’s a place Stephens had one of the best games of his career with VMI a hear ago.
  5. Western Carolina–Western Carolina will hope to respond to its setback at Chattanooga by turning it around like it did against Furman following the UNCG debacle. The Catamounts will take on the Bulldogs in the first SoCon clash of the day, with tip-off slated for 1 p.m.
  6. East Tennessee State–Jordan King’s performance was something that ETSU and SoCon hoops fans alike won’t soon forget, but getting back to winning ways at home Saturday against struggling Mercer is a must if ETSU wants to factor into this year’s championship race.
  7. Wofford–The Terriers are losing ground and not shooting it well. With the Terriers having made a coaching change at the start of league play, we will know a little more about how Jay McAuley’s departure affects this for good or bad by the end of the month, and through five league games, it’s not looking too good.
  8. The Citadel–The Bulldogs started in strong fashion, posting maybe the league’s biggest upset win, along with WCU’s win over Furman, however since Ed Conroy’s Bulldogs have struggled to find consistency, especially shooting the basketball.
  9. Mercer–Since joining the SoCon, the Bears had never started league play 0-5. That is until losing 84-66 to Furman Wednesday night. Rebounding to get a win in Johnson City also looks like a taller task now than it might have previously…Has Greg Gary’s team fully lost the confidence it had in impressive non-conference wins over Troy and Morehead State?
  10. VMI–Andrew Wilson has a difficult task to get this VMI team back to being a consistent winner, but anyone will tell you who has seen VMI play, he’s doing an outstanding job and it’s only a matter of time before he gets things back on track in Lexington.

Published by soconjohn

I am a lover of all things SoCon, and I have had a passion to write about, follow and tell the world about this great conference for pretty much my entire life. While I do love the SoCon, and live in the SoCon city, which is home to the Furman Paladins, have a passion for sports in general, with college football and college hoops topping the list.

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