Heading into February, Samford Basketball has a lot to look forward to. The team is tied for first in the SoCon with the rival Furman Paladins and is fully healthy with the return of Ques Glover.
However, Samford’s recent road tilt presented a bump in the road, as the team dropped 2 out of 3 games. The Bulldogs fell to Furman and Wofford in two tough matchups but most recently beat Western Carolina in Cullowhee to cling to their share of the SoCon lead.
The Samford-Furman matchup was an instant classic, as both teams fought until the final whistle and beyond. The Paladins ultimately claimed an overtime victory with a 91-84 final score. Logan Dye paced the Bulldogs with 19 points and six rebounds. With his effort, Dye eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his Samford career, becoming the 30th player in program history to reach the coveted achievement. A.J. Staton-McCray added 16 points, as the sophomore guard has become a reliable threat in the rotation.
However, the keys to the Bulldogs’ loss were rebounding, timely free-throw shooting, and their accuracy from the three-point line. The Paladins had 17 offensive rebounds, which created 23 second-chance points. This was more than enough for the Paladins to escape with a win.
While Samford didn’t struggle from the free throw line (they shot a respectable 68%), they went 4-7 from the charity stripe in the overtime period. While this wasn’t the key determinant to victory, if the Bulldogs nailed their free throws, we could be looking at a different result, as completed free throws swing the game’s momentum and create different play styles on both sides of the ball. Furthermore, Samford shot a paltry 33% from beyond the arc, which did not help the team’s cause whatsoever.
Head Coach Bucky McMillan was relatively unfazed by the Furman loss.
“I still feel like we’re the best team in the league. We’re still in control of our destiny, which is what you want.” McMillan said. “We’ve got to shake this one off and move right along to the next game.”
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs fell to Wofford 85-77 in their next matchup. Ques Glover looked like his old self, leading Samford with 20 points. However, only one other Bulldog (Bubba Parham) scored in double figures, contributing heavily to the team’s defeat. In addition, Samford had another rough night from the three-point line, shooting 20%. Meanwhile, Wofford also had 13 points off turnovers, another key to Samford’s loss.
However, the Bulldogs turned it around against Western Carolina, claiming an 85-77 victory over the Catamounts. Logan Dye had 24 points in a return to form, while A.J. Staton-McCray and Ques Glover had 18 and 17 points, respectively. The team was lights out from the charity stripe, shooting 87%. Furthermore, the ‘Dogs got active on the glass, outrebounding WCU 38-26.
If Samford wants to build on a stellar season, Samford needs to continue to work in the paint. Logan Dye has emerged as a SoCon Player of the Year contender, and with Ques Glover’s return, the Bulldogs now have a driver who can create plays inside. With this mentality, the Bulldogs can then create open, high-percentage threes. Furthermore, the depth of the Bulldogs will be something they need to rely on down the stretch. If Glover or Dye has an off night, who will step up? Will it be A.J. Staton-McCray, who has shined recently? Can Jermaine Marshall continue to be the team’s sparkplug, or will Bubba Parham finally emerge as a reliable scoring threat?
Hopefully, Bulldogs fans will get clarity on these unanswered questions in the coming weeks. The pivotal seven-game stretch before the SoCon Tournament begins Saturday, Feb 4, as Samford will play host to ETSU.