published Thursday, February 9th, 2012

SoCon squeakers: League has had lots of tight games

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman and his players have talked all season about little plays being the difference.

Little plays have been the difference in a lot of Southern Conference basketball games this season.

There have been 75 games conference games play in the SoCon this season. Of that pool, 22 of them have been decided in overtime or by three points or less.

So, the calculator states than 29.3 percent of SoCon games so far this season have been won or lost in the final seconds, or sent to another five minutes.

"When you have a lot of one-possession games, it lets you know the guys on the sideline for both teams really has a handle on what he's doing," Georgia Southern coach Charlton Young said. "There's a lot of good teams and a lot of good coaches.

"I'm very proud of our conference."

UTC has played play in six of those close games and won two of them. No team has been in more close games than the Mocs.

Their most recent final-tick game came against Young and his Eagles when Jelani Hewitt drained a 3-pointer from the left wing as time expired for a 75-72 win in McKenzie Arena.

"One or two plays a game would have made our season totally different," UTC center Drazen Zlovaric said. "We have to make it happen and we will."

The SoCon standings are muddy right now amongst 10 teams. Davidson, at 12-1, has risen above the jumble, and The Citadel, at 1-11 is clearly below the other 11 teams. The other 10 teams are within six games of each other in the standings.

"I believe the league is more balanced than it's ever been, and with the exception of Davidson, there's not a lot of difference between No. 1 and No. 11 -- the Citadel has struggled more than they would like," said Furman coach Jeff Jackson, who has his team at 6-7 in the SoCon.

"I don't think there's a huge variance," he said. "It comes down to what plays are made at the end of games."

Samford, the only other SoCon team with five last-second games is 4-1 in those contests. Davidson, the best team in the league to date is 2-1 in nail-biters with the loss coming at Samford.

"We have talented teams top to bottom and anybody can knock anybody off," said Davidson coach Bob McKillop, whose team beat Kansas earlier this season.

"It's becoming not just the nature of the SoCon, but the nature of college basketball," he said. "The landscape has become so even, where in conference play you get to know each other so well. The knowledge coaches have allows this parity to develop."

All of the parity within the SoCon could lead to a wild party in Asheville at the conference tournament.

"The tournament is going to be pretty exciting," The Citadel coach Chuck Driesell said. "Here we are in last place and we beat the team that beat that has one loss. On any given night anybody can beat anybody.

"The stats point to that."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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