Published on March 12, 2024  
mens basketball wins socon
The Samford University men's basketball team earned its first-ever Southern Conference Tournament title with a hard-fought 76-69 win over ETSU in the championship game Monday evening at Harrah's Cherokee Center.
"I'm so happy for this team, I'm so happy for Samford University," Samford head coach Bucky McMillan said. "I remember sitting in here our first year and playing as a 10 seed, we won six games and at the end of the year we lost by 35 or 40 points to Mercer. I remember we had to recruit players for my first recruiting class, and we had to convince them that we could win this league. I said in the press conference that we would win this league and win this tournament, and we did."
With the win, Samford earns its first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 2000. The Bulldogs now have a record of 29-5, the most wins in program history. ETSU ends its season with a mark of 19-16.
"It's so difficult to do something like this, to win a SoCon championship, but do you know how surreal it has to be for players to be the first to do it," McMillan said. "These are the first guys to win a SoCon championship for our university, and that's so hard to do. I'm so proud to do it with this group. I told someone today that I've never wanted a team to win a championship more than this team. In a day and age where there is a lot of 'me' going on, we had so many upperclassmen come in and buy in to roles that would equal winning, so I'm just so happy for these guys and so happy for our university."
Samford was led in the win by Achor Achor, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, with 25 points and nine rebounds. Jermaine Marshall, a first-team All-Tournament honoree, had 23 points and eight rebounds. Jaden Campbell added 11 points and five rebounds for the Bulldogs. Rylan Jones was named second team All-Tournament, and he had six points and four assists.
For ETSU, Ebby Asomoah led the way with 18 points, while Quimari Peterson tallied 17 points. Jaden Seymour led all rebounders with 11, to go along with his seven points.
Samford jumped out to an early 11-2 lead at the 17:30 mark of the first half following a layup by Achor. ETSU answered with a 14-4 run of its own to take a 16-15 lead with 13:42 left in the first half after a three-point play by Asamoah. With ETSU leading, 19-16, Samford scored five-straight points to take a 21-19 lead with 12:04 left in the opening half after a three-point play by Achor.
The Bulldogs opened up a five-point lead at 34-29 with 6:25 left in the first half after a three-pointer by Marshall. ETSU fought back to take a 36-35 lead with 3:46 to go before halftime after a free throw by Karon Boyd. The Bulldogs came back to take a 40-36 lead late in the half, and Samford took a 40-38 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Samford opened up a nine-point lead at 52-43 with 15:30 left after a three-pointer by Campbell. The Bucs cut the lead to five points at 58-53 at the 11:07 mark in the second half after a three-pointer by Asamoah.
ETSU closed to within four points at 60-56 with 9:27 to go after a layup by Peterson. The Bucs cut the lead to one point at 63-62 with 7:04 left after a jumper by Seymour. Samford stretched the lead back out to seven points at 73-66 with 1:00 remaining after a pair of free throws by Marshall. ETSU could get no closer than five points the rest of the way as Samford came away with the 76-69 win.
Samford will learn its opponent and location for the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the NCAA Tournament Selection Show next Sunday, March 17. Details for a Selection Show Watch Party will be released later this week.
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.