Mid-Major Takeaways: Week Nine

As the calendar switched to a new year and a new decade, it also signified the end of non-conference play. Outside of late January’s SEC/Big 12 challenge, the next games between non-conference foes will occur in March. Mid-major programs performed well throughout their non-conference slates. Upsets have been occurring at an unusual rate, and this past week gave us one more taste. We also had quite a few mid-major players have some great scoring performances.

Mid-Major Week Nine Takeaways

Florida Fireworks

A pair of mid-major Florida schools went on the road and pulled off massive upsets just in time to celebrate the new year.

Stetson, out of the Atlantic Sun, took down South Carolina last Monday 63-56. This was the Hatters’ first victory over an SEC opponent since 2004 and first over a power-five school since 2010. Stetson suffocated the Gamecocks defensively, holding them to 37 percent shooting from the field, including 2-10 in the game’s final five minutes. Stetson led for all but 3:42 in the game. Christiaan Jones led all Hatters with 18 points in his first game since November 18th. Jones scored most of his points from the charity stripe, going 10-13.

Florida A&M made their own noise on New Year’s Eve, defeating Iowa State 70-68 on the road. This was the Rattlers’ first-ever win over a power conference opponent. Florida A&M was a 25.5 point underdog, making them the fourth team to win a game against that large of a point spread this season. They had been 0-106 against major conference teams since 1984-85, which was the third-longest streak ever by a Division I team. Rod Melton Jr. scored 20 points to lead the Rattlers, including the game-winning basket with ten seconds remaining.

Belmont Blues

Belmont earned the school’s first-ever at-large bid to the tournament last March. This season, the Bruins will have to earn their bid automatically. That picture became clearer when SIU-Edwardsville shocked Belmont 79-69 in their conference opener last week.

This is arguably the biggest win for the Cougars since transitioning to Division I. It’s the program’s first victory over Belmont, and just the fourth home conference loss for the Bruins since joining the Ohio Valley Conference. SIUE went ahead 40-37 with 16:47 remaining in the game and never gave up the lead again. The Cougars outrebounded Belmont 46-35, while five players scored in double figures. Zeke Moore was the top scorer for Edwardsville, dropping 17 points. In talking about the big win, head coach Brian Barone said, “you work hard, you plan and you execute, and when it comes to fruition on a day, you gotta enjoy it.”

Tribe Time

In a season in which the CAA race appears to be wide open, William & Mary is making its case to the top dog. The Tribe went on arguably the toughest road trip in conference play and took down Northeastern and Hofstra. Tack on a road win over Elon to start league play, and the Tribe are 3-0 for just the fifth time in school history. William & Mary now leads the country with seven road wins this season.

The Tribe defeated Hofstra, last year’s regular-season champion, 88-61. The 27 point victory was the second-largest win by William & Mary on the road in league play ever. A few days later, they eked out a 66-64 victory over Northeastern in Boston, with Nathan Knight scoring the game-winning field goal. Even more impressive was that they were able to hold the Huskies’ Jordan Roland, the CAA’s leading scorer, to just seven points in that game.

Knight is an under-the-radar NBA prospect who is averaging 20.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. The big man leads all players with 12 double-doubles this season and is the clear-cut leader on this team. He is assisted by fellow big Andy Van Vliet, a seven-footer from Belgium. Van Vliet is adding 15.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. That one-two punch can help a team that was picked seventh in the preseason poll potentially earn its first tournament bid ever.

Anchor and Buie

Hofstra’s Desure Buie had himself a career week, changing his single-game career-high scoring total twice. First, Buie put up 39 points against Towson in the Pride’s conference opener. That total broke a previous career-high that was set in a game against UCLA earlier this season. He made 11-15 from the free-throw line and drilled 6-7 from behind the arc.

While he had a letdown of ten points in the aforementioned loss to William & Mary, Buie was back to his scoring ways against Elon on Saturday. He broke his career-high by putting up 44 points against the Phoenix, eclipsing 1,000 career points in the process. He was an efficient 15-19 shooting, including going 6-8 from three.

Buie was a great complementary player to CAA Player of the Year Justin Wright-Foreman last season and is coming into his own this year. He has taken the reigns as Hofstra’s leader, and the Pride will need him to continue to perform well if they want to keep their grip on the conference this season.

Mid-Major Top Performers

Buie wasn’t the only mid-major player lighting up scorebooks this week. Furman’s Jordan Lyons has been known to erupt before and did it again on New Year’s Day. Lyons dropped 40 points against VMI, doing most of his damage from the three-point line. He went 10-12 from behind the arc, which is the second-most made three-point field goals ever by a Furman player. It was also the first 40 point performance against a Division I opponent since 2013. Lyons scored 54 last season against Division II North Greenville, including setting the three-point made field goals record with 15.

Houston Baptist’s Ian Dubose scored 44 points against Central Arkansas to give the Huskies their first win of the season on Thursday. The point total was a career-high for Dubose and the most by a Southland Conference player this season. He went 15-23 from the field and 12-16 from the free-throw line while adding 11 rebounds.

Michael Ertel from Louisiana-Monroe scored 39 points against conference foe South Alabama on Saturday, a new career-high. Ertel did the damage from three-point land, going 11-21. The 11 made threes is a new school record and ties the record for made threes by a player in a Sun Belt Conference game. Ertel scored 20 of Monroe’s first 25 points and drained eight of his three-point baskets in the first half.

To round out the week, Pacific’s Jahlil Tripp scored a career-high 39 points in a four-overtime victory over Saint Mary’s on Saturday. Tripp went 14-19 from the free-throw line and tacked on 11 rebounds to his stat line. He also played 52 of the possible 60 minutes in the game, one of two players to play 50+ minutes for the Tigers.

 

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