What a week, yet again. I know I started the same way last week, but I have to start this way again. As snow heads towards the high country, let’s take a moment and recognize that the Mountaineers now have the longest streak of anyone in the SoCon, which we all know is up to 5 in a row (The Citadel “technically” owns the longest streak, but that is a losing streak now up to 11, so yeah…).

Saturday saw the 2nd best crowd at the Holmes Center all year when Applachian defeated Elon 80-70. 1,708 Happy Appy’s saw Nathan Healy score 22 points and grab 8 rebounds and nab 4 steals. Usually it’s not too good of a sign when only 5 players score, but you’re doing alright if four of them have over 12 and five of them have over 10. Mike Neal had 17, which somewhat offsets the fact that he had 6 turnovers, Tevin Baskin had 16 and 10 rebounds, Jay Canty had 12, Tab Hamilton had 10, and Chris Burgess rounded out the scoring with a timely 3 late in the first half. Elon led 31-19 around the 5:00 mark and after that the Apps outscored the birds 61-39. I’ll hit on that more shortly…

Capel speaking with Baskin, who continues to come up huge

Capel speaking with Baskin, who continues to come up huge

Monday night we saw the best student turnout of the year and Jason Capel won the battle of the Tar Heel coaches by defeating UNC-Greensboro 83-70. The SoCon’s leading scorer Trevis Simpson led UNCG with 22, and the conference’s third leading scorer Derrell Armstrong had 20, but Healy continued his hot play and had a career night by scoring 24 points, on 7-11 shooting from the field and 8-9 at the line, to go along with 9 rebounds. Neal had 19, Baskin had 16, and Canty had 14. What a wonderful couple of days for Nathan Healy and Mike Neal. Healy finished the 2 games in 3 days stretch with 46 points and 17 rebounds, while Neal finished the stretch with 36 points. Those two led the way to two key early conference victories.

Since our Mountaineers have gotten on this run, winning 6 of their last 7 (the only loss at South Carolina by 5, in a game where we had chances), a lot of people have been wondering, “what has been the key to this turn around?” Obviously, looking at a player, or players, you can look at Nathan Healy, Tevin Baskin, and Mike Neal. All have made significant contributions in just about every game, and they will continue as the season goes along.

Healy drills a 3 in the 2nd half vs. UNCG as we get a shot at the best student turnout of the year

Healy drills a 3 in the 2nd half vs. UNCG as we get a shot at the best student turnout of the year

Those three guys have been key cogs, but to me, the big difference is defense. All runs in college basketball start on defense, and that has been really evident in our last two victories. On Saturday, Elon smacked us in the mouth early with their defensive pressure, and we couldn’t do anything. After Capel’s timeout down 31-19, we took our defense to a new level, and outscored the Phoenix by 22 the rest of the way, as referenced earlier. Monday night, Greensboro smacked us in the mouth early as well, and we dug yet another hole. Whatever Capel said in the locker room worked, and every phase of the game was better in the 2nd half. We defended, rebounded, and hit shots en route to outscoring the Spartans 51-31 in the last 20 minutes.

It all starts with defense. I would venture to say that being 7-8, 3-1 at this point in the season surprises most of Yosef’s Cabin. This team doesn’t have the absolute most talent in the world, but if we can continue to play hard defense, like in the 2nd half of the Elon and Greensboro games, I don’t see why we can’t finish above .500 in conference play. This team is growing in front of our eyes, and have two big road contests ahead of them tonight and Saturday. I say win both and come back home 9-8. 5-1 in conference, and have crowds well north of 2,000 for home dates with Georgia Southern and Davidson. Let’s make them take those dad gum tarps of the seats.

As I just mentioned, the Mountaineers have two key road tests to wrap up this week. The Mountaineers are in Chattanooga tonight, and at Samford on Saturday. UTC comes in 7-10, 2-2 while Samford comes in at 5-12, but 3-1 in conference play. Two tough road tests await, and the Apps can’t afford to start of slow as they did over the weekend. The defense has been great, but they haven’t played tight, good, solid defense for a full 40 minutes yet. If the men can play solid defense for close to two full games with minimal collapses, I feel pretty good. However, these are on the road and I am very interested to see how our guys carry this win streak.

Now for a look around the league…

-Appalachian State (7-8, 3-1)

Last week: Beat Elon 80-70, Beat UNCG 83-70
This week: Thursday (tonight) @ Chattanooga, Saturday @ Samford

-College of Charleston (12-5, 4-1)

Last week: Lost to Samford 62-57, Beat Chattanooga 86-59, Won @ The Citadel 73-69
This week: Thursday (tonight) @ Georgia Southern, Saturday @ Davidson

-Chattanooga (7-10, 2-2)

Last week: Won @ The Citadel 70-65, Lost @ Charleston 86-59
This week: Thursday (tonight) vs. Appalachian State, Saturday vs. Western Carolina

-The Citadel (3-12, 0-5)

Last week: Lost to Chattanooga 70-65, Lost to Samford 69-65, Lost to Charleston 73-69
This week: Thursday (tonight) @ Davidson, Saturday @ Georgia Southern

-Davidson (9-7, 4-1)

Last week: Won @ Furman 81-73, Lost @ Georgia Southern 70-57
This week: Thursday (tonight) vs. The Citadel, Saturday vs. Charleston

-Elon (9-7, 2-2)

Last week: Lost @ Appalachian 80-70, Won @ Western Carolina 80-67
This week: Thursday (tonight) vs. Furman, Saturday vs. Wofford

-Furman (4-11, 1-3)

Last week: Lost to Davidson 81-73, Beat Wofford 69-65
This week: Thursday (tonight) @ Elon, Sunday @ UNCG

-Georgia Southern (7-10, 1-3)

Last week: Lost @ Wofford 71-53, Beat Davidson 70-57
This week: Thursday (tonight) vs. Charleston, Saturday vs. The Citadel

-Samford (5-12, 3-1)

Last week: Won @ Charleston 62-57, Won @ The Citadel 69-65
This week: Thursday (tonight) vs. Western Carolina, Saturday vs. Appalachian State

-UNC-Greensboro (4-12, 2-3)

Last week: Lost @ Western Carolina 62-59, Lost @ Appalachian 83-70
This week: Sunday vs. Furman

-Western Carolina (7-10, 4-1)

Last week: Beat UNCG 62-59, Lost to Elon 80-67
This week: Thursday (tonight) @ Samford, Saturday @ Chattanooga

-Wofford (7-11, 1-4)

Last week: Beat Georgia Southern 71-53, Lost @ Furman 69-65, Lost @ UNCG 71-52
This week: Saturday @ Elon

SoCon Individual Stat Leaders

-POINTS

Trevis Simpson, UNCG, 18.4
Trey Sumler, WCU, 17.8
Derrell Armstrong, UNCG ,16.8

-FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE

Mike Groselle, CIT, 58%
Preston Ross, WCU, 55%
Nathan Healy, ASU, 54%

-ASSISTS

Marshall Harris III, CIT, 4.9
Stephen Croone, FUR, 4.5
Andrew Lawrence, CofC, 4.1

-REBOUNDS

Adjehi Baru, CofC, 9.2
Mike Groselle, CIT, 7.7
Eric Ferguson, GSU, 7.6

-BLOCKS

Lucas Troutman, ELON, 2.2
Jake Cohen, DAV, 1.5
Nathan Healy, ASU, 1.5

-STEALS

Karl Cochran, WOF, 2.3
Trey Sumler, WCU, 2.1
Andrew Lawrence, CofC

-STANDINGS

NORTH CONF GB OVR
Western Carolina 4-1 7-10
Appalachian State 3-1 .5 7-8
Samford 3-1 .5 5-12
Elon 2-2 1.5 9-7
Chattanooga 2-2 1.5 7-10
UNC Greensboro 2-3 2 4-12
SOUTH CONF GB OVR
Charleston 4-1 12-5
Davidson 4-1 9-7
Georgia Southern 1-3 2.5 7-10
Furman 1-3 2.5 4-11
Wofford 1-4 3 7-11
Citadel 0-5 4 3-12

Stats and Standings courtesy of ESPN.com

-Although I post the top 3 of every category unless there is a tie at 3rd, there were a couple spots just missed by Mountaineers. Jay Canty is 5th in scoring at 15.3, and Nathan Healy is 4th in steals with 1.7 per game.

Go Mountaineers