Samford (11-17) at Chattanooga (10-20)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 25th, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McKenzie Arena (10,928) -- Chattanooga, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: Samford 7-8, Chattanooga 10-6. Away Record: Samford 4-9, Chattanooga 0-14. Neutral Record: Samford 0-0, Chattanooga 0-0. Conference Record: Samford 8-9, Chattanooga 4-13. Series Record: Chattanooga leads, 47-35.
GAME NOTES: The Samford Bulldogs pay a visit to McKenzie Arena to renew the Southern Rail Rivalry, and to close out the regular season against the Southern Conference-rival Chattanooga Mocs.
Samford needs a win tonight in order to finish second in the conference's North Division and earn a first-round bye in next weekend's tournament in Asheville. A win here would also lock up the Bulldogs' best SoCon record in school history, topping their previous mark of 9-11 in 2008-09. In order to do so, they must find a way to rebound from Thursday's tough 79-77 setback at Western Carolina.
On the other side of the floor, Chattanooga is locked in as the No. 6 seed from the North Division and will face either Georgia Southern or Wofford on Friday. The Mocs have dropped four straight and 11 of their last 12 overall. They are coming off Thursday's 65-55 setback at Furman to finish 0-14 on the road this season.
Samford notched an 81-70 win over Chattanooga on Jan. 14, although the Mocs still lead the all-time series, 47-35.
The Bulldogs trailed by as many as 14 in the second half of Thursday's contest, yet they were able to chip away at the deficit and eventually tied the game at 73-73 with 1:28 remaining. But after scratching and clawing their way back into it, they watched Western Carolina sink six straight free throws in the final minute to fend off the rally. Of course, the Bulldogs also painted themselves into a corner by allowing the Catamounts to bury a school- record 17 three-pointers (.515) on the night. Samford tried to match WCU bucket for bucket and had some success at that, shooting 50 percent from the floor and knocking down 12-of-22 threes (.545). But in the end, that second- half deficit proved too steep to overcome despite the Bulldogs committing only six turnovers for the game while dishing out 17 assists. Drew Windler led the way with 27 points behind a 4-of-6 effort from the perimeter. Raijon Kelly and Tyler Hood scored 13 apiece. On the season, Windler paces the squad with 14.2 points per game and is a 43.4-percent shooter from beyond the arc (56-of-129). Hood is also averaging double figures with 10.9 ppg.
Chattanooga tops the conference in assists per game (14.4) and field-goal percentage defense (40.5). That high assists total is primarily due to the efforts of senior captain Keegan Bell, the SoCon leader in assists (6.1) and assist-turnover ratio (2.2). Bell is averaging 7.4 ppg and shoots just 29.8 percent from the floor, but he orchestrates the whole offense and thrives on setting his teammates up with easy buckets. Ricky Taylor and Omar Wattad share the team scoring lead with 12.4 ppg apiece, and both of those players can hit from outside. Taylor is a 39.5-percent shooter from the perimeter (45-of-114), while Wattad ranks among the conference leaders with 77 three-pointers made (.363). But on Thursday night, the Mocs had no answer for Furman's Brandon Sebirumbi, who dominated the paint with a career-best 14 rebounds in just 24 minutes. UTC had held the Bulldogs to just 1-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc with a little more than six minutes to play, but they got going late and buried four threes in a quick burst to put the game out of reach. For the second straight game, UTC struggled from the floor, shooting only 31.5 percent. Taylor finished with 13 points, although he was the lone starter in double figures. Ronrico White scored 10 off the bench in the loss.
Samford should be plenty motivated to try and notch a win tonight against a very beatable Chattanooga squad. As long as they can avoid another slow start, the Bulldogs should be able to come out on top and grab that No. 2 seed.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Samford 72, Chattanooga 65
02/25 10:39:17 ET