published Thursday, January 12th, 2012

SoCon spotlight on WCU at Davidson

Western Carolina (8-8, 3-1 SoCon) at Davidson (10-4, 4-0)

When: Tonight at 7

Where: Belk Arena, Davidson, N.C.

Television: None

Heading into the game ... This is an early-season clash of the division leaders. WCU leads the North at 3-1 with SoCon wins over Samford, UNCG and Wofford and a loss to UTC last Thursday. The Wildcats are undefeated in league play and have the SoCon's only win over a ranked team when it toppled No. 12 Kansas. In its only SoCon loss, WCU fell to 2-32 against UTC in McKenzie Arena. The Wildcats have won 12 of their last 13 regular-season SoCon games dating back to last season.

The Catamounts win if ... Their backcourt lights up the Wildcats. Keaton Cole, a sharpshooter who is 21-of-40 from the 3-point line in SoCon games, leads WCU with 17.5 points per SoCon game. Fellow senior Harouna Mutombo -- nephew of Dikembe Mutombo -- leads the Cats with an average of 14.1 points in all games.

The Wildcats win if ... They outmuscle WCU up front and on the blocks. Forwards De'Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen are both top-10 rebounders in the SoCon. It would also help if Davidson gets to the free-throw line. It leads the nation in shooting 81.1 percent from the line, and Nik Cochran is tops individually at 93.8 percent.

The X-factor is ... Coaching and in-game adjustments. With 607 career wins, Larry Hunter is almost 200 wins ahead of Bob McKillop. Hunter has coached nine more years than McKillop's 23 seasons at Davidson. Both known their opponent's tendencies, so timeouts and huddles will be crucial.

DEEP 3

1. Cosmo's cosmic world — The Citadel coach Chuck Driesell was hired before last season. One of his best returning players, Cosmo Morabbi, had thoughts of leaving the Low Country. Driesell had to re-recruit him. "We had a good conversation and he saw the benefits to stay," Driesell said. "He's starting to play the way he expected and hoped he would." Morabbi is averaging 12 points and 3.3 assists per SoCon game.

2. Brooks becoming a beast — Davidson sophomore forward De'Mon Brooks has evolved into one of the better post players in the SoCon through repetition and action. He shoots 54.1 percent from the floor and averages more than six rebounds per game. "He's understanding our system and that's given him a comfort and confidence level," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said.

3. Paladin Parity -- Furman coach Jeff Jackson has no players ranked in the top 25 of SoCon scoring, but he has three -- Charlie Reddick, Bryant Irwin and Richard Brown — who have each scored 139 points this season for an average of 9.3 per game. "I would prefer to have a go-to guy," Jackson said. "As they get more experience, somebody will emerge as they get more confident and comfortable and get a little more arrogant."

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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