Appalachian State (9-20) vs. Samford (12-19)

The Sports NetworkMarch 7, 2014 

GAME NOTES: In the first game of the 2014 Southern Conference Tournament, the eighth-seeded Samford Bulldogs will contend with the ninth-seeded Appalachian State Mountaineers at U.S. Cellular Center.

Appalachian State swept the season series from Samford by posting a 74-68 victory on Feb. 13 and a 63-57 triumph on Feb. 27. The Mountaineers have won three straight against the Bulldogs overall, and lead the all-time series, 8-4. The winner of this bout will advance to face top-seeded Davidson in Saturday's second round.

The Mountaineers did not have a strong finish to the regular season, with losses in four of their final five game. However, the lone victory in that stretch came against Samford. Appalachian State owns a 9-20 overall record, meaning its season will continue only as long as they remain alive in this tournament.

The same could be said for Samford, which is just 12-19 overall, including a 6-10 mark against the rest of the SoCon. The Bulldogs did win their regular- season finale last Saturday, posting a 93-86 victory over Western Carolina. However, they had lost four straight prior to that outcome.

In their final game of the regular season, the Mountaineers were routed by second-seeded Chattanooga, 63-44. Michale Obacha scored 11 points as the only player to reach double figures for Appalachian State, which had only four field goals after halftime, while shooting a mere 30.6 percent for the game.

Tommy Spagnolo (8.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is a player to watch in this contest, as he played some of his best basketball of the season against Samford. He tallied a pair of double-doubles in the two outings, averaging 20 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Tab Hamilton (12.8 ppg) is accustomed to being the primary option, however, as the only eligible player on the roster to average in double figures. Jay Canty (12.3 ppg) and Mike Neal (10.1 ppg) were each suspended for disciplinary reasons at the end of February. Hamilton will need to recover from his 3-of-11 shooting effort against Chattanooga to be effective in this one.

Tim Williams finished with a career-high 32 points on 10-of-11 shooting to lead Samford over Western Carolina last weekend. The Bulldogs shot an incredible 59.6 percent from the floor and also knocked down 33-of-39 attempts at the free-throw line.

Although they are rarely that productive on offense, Samford has been one of the more efficient shooting teams in the SoCon this season, ranking second in field goal percentage (.476). They actually lead the league in assists (13.9 apg), but let up 77 ppg on 46.6 percent shooting at the other end. Williams (17.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg) is a potent scorer and effective rebounder. Williams leads the SoCon in field goal percentage (.609) and also blocks 1.5 shots per game. Isaiah Williams (12.4 ppg) and Raijon Kelly (10.4 ppg) also figure in the mix.

Even if Spagnolo continues his dominance against Samford, the Mountaineers are going to have a tough time pulling out a win down two key contributors. Expect Williams and the fully-stocked Bulldogs to advance.

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