Appalachian State (12-17) vs. College of Charleston (19-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 2, 11:30 a.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Cellular Center (7,654) -- Asheville, North Carolina. Television: SoCon Sports Network. Home Record: ASU 9-5, CofC 10-4. Away Record: ASU 3-11, CofC 7-6. Neutral Record: ASU 0-1, CofC 2-1. Conference Record: ASU 7-11, CofC 10-8. Series Record: College of Charleston leads, 17-11.
GAME NOTES: The 2012 Southern Conference Tournament gets underway this morning at U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, North Carolina, as the fourth-seeded College of Charleston Cougars take on the fifth-seeded Appalachian State Mountaineers.
The College of Charleston notched a 74-62 victory when these teams met up in Boone on Feb. 4. The Cougars lead the all-time series, 17-11. The winner will advance to face SoCon North Division champ and No. 1 seed UNC Greensboro in the quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon.
Appalachian State dropped its final two games to close out the regular season, including a double-digit loss to last-place Citadel last Wednesday. The Mountaineers went just 3-6 in the month of February and do not figure to last long in this tournament unless they can turn things around in a hurry.
Charleston lost to Wofford in last year's title tilt and has been defeated in the championship game of three of the last five league tourneys. But whereas ASU sputtered down the stretch, the Cougars rebounded from a 3-6 January by going 6-2 in the month of February.
Back in late-January, ASU's leading scorer Omar Carter (11.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg) found himself benched by head coach Jason Capel for a lack of focus on the mental aspects of the game. At least initially, the move seemed to really ignite the senior leader, as he averaged 19.7 points and nine rebounds in his first three games off the pine. But not wanting to mess with what was working, coach Capel continued to use Carter in a reserve role, although the senior guard went on to average a mere 5.4 points over his next eight games. Without a steady scoring presence on the court, ASU lost six of those contests. He was given one starting assignment in the stretch -- on Senior Night -- and notched 15 points and six rebounds. While Carter is the only player on the team averaging double figures on the season, forward Andre Williamson has stepped up his game in conference play, averaging 10.2 points and a team-best 7.2 rebounds per tilt. Williamson is also shooting a healthy 60.3 percent from the floor against league foes. Still, given that Carter is clearly more motivated when he is starting, you have to wonder whether coach Capel will change course and move his top scorer back into the starting lineup. If he keeps the lineup unchanged, the Mountaineers will need some other players to step up offensively if they have any hopes of bringing home the school's first SoCon tourney title since 2000.
After earning the South Division's top seed a year ago, Charleston took a slight step backward by going 10-8 in league play and winning 19 games overall this season, good enough for the No. 4 seed. Still, this is a team that has won six of its last seven outings and is playing as well as anybody in the conference entering the tournament. Balance is the name of the game for the Cougars, who boast three players averaging double figures and four others averaging at least six points per game. Antwaine Wiggins is the headliner, tallying 15.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest. He and second-leading scorer Andrew Lawrence (12.9 ppg) have combined to knock down 119 three- pointers on the year. Down low, Trent Wiedeman (11.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) is posting 12.8 points and a team-best 9.6 rebounds per tilt in league play. As a team, CofC is second in the league in both scoring margin (+2.9) and field goal percentage defense (.416). The Cougars are also one of five SoCon teams putting up at least 70 ppg, as they have struck a nice balance at both ends of the floor. One area of weakness, however, is on the glass where they boast the league's second-worst rebounding margin (-3.3). If the Cougars hope to punch their first ticket to the Big Dance since 1999, they'll need a consistent team effort crashing the boards.
Charleston was a 12-point winner on the road when these teams met up about a month ago, and the Cougars should enough in the tank to turn the trick once again. As long as they picked up right where they left off down the stretch of the regular season, CofC will likely be looking at a date with UNCG on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Coll. of Charleston 75, Appalachian St. 64
03/02 10:34:03 ET