CARROLLTON, Ga. – Marquill Smith put on a shooting clinic on Thursday evening in Montgomery, Ala., leading the West Georgia Wolves to their third-straight victory and a berth in the 2018 Gulf South Conference tournament with an 86-80 road victory in the regular season finale over Auburn Montgomery.
The win puts West Georgia into the Gulf South Conference tournament for the first time since 2016 after West Alabama had their entire conference season vacated earlier in the day. The Wolves needed a victory to reach the tournament, and will enter this year’s tourney as the 8th seed, playing on Tuesday evening at Valdosta State.
Smith scored 39 points and pulled down 17 rebounds to lead the West Georgia offensive effort on the evening. Four players scored in double-figures, as William Sides, Vinko Glavan and Karlos Odum each had 10 points in the contest. Paul Turner had a big night on the boards, pulling 13 rebounds.
Over the first five minutes of the game, things looked similar to the first meeting between the two teams back in December, as the Wolves and Warhawks played at a breakneck speed. Marquill Smith was on fire early for the Wolves, scoring eight of the first 12, but Auburn Montgomery matched that and did four better, leading 16-12 with five minutes gone in the first half.
With 8:07 left in the first half, Smith scored his 14th point of the first half, giving the Wolves a 29-22 lead, the largest of the first 12 minutes of the first half. West Georgia held the lead for the next four minutes, until AUM hit a three-pointer to briefly take the lead with just under four minutes left in the period. But Smith didn’t let that stand, burying a three-pointer for his 24th point of the first half and a 39-37 lead.
The Wolves kept the lead into the break at halftime, holding on to a 47-43 advantage heading into the locker room.
In the second half, West Georgia scored six straight points right out of the gate to take a 53-43 lead early in the period. Auburn Montgomery then went on an 8-0 run, cutting the UWG advantage to 53-51 with 16:09 left in the game. The second half seemed to be similar to the first, as the Wolves led 70-63 with just over eight minutes left in the contest.
West Georgia maintained the lead for the bulk of the final eight minutes, but Auburn Montgomery cut the Wolves’ lead to 77-76 with a three-pointer with 2:04 left in the game. The game stayed very close over the final two minutes, but Smith scored four points in the final minute to give the Wolves a five point advantage and salt the game away.