CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Wofford SID) – The Wofford men’s basketball team was limited to 37.3-percent shooting and was defeated, 79-63, by Southern Conference leader Chattanooga on Thursday night at The McKenzie Arena.
The Terriers cut what was once a 14-point Chattanooga lead to just five when freshman Fletcher Magee drained his fourth 3-pointer of the night with 6:30 remaining. It capped a 9-0 run.
It would be as close as it got. Fourth-year junior Justin Tuoyo muscled his way through the paint for the next four points and Chattanooga (20-3, 9-1 SoCon) went on to rebuild its lead to double figures with 3:42 to go. The Terriers (10-13, 6-4 SoCon) had no response.
“Chattanooga typically plays eight guys that are all juniors and seniors and that’s a recipe for closing gaps and finishing ball games,” said head coach Mike Young in his postgame radio interview. “I thought my team fought and did some nice things, but they are better than we are. There is no other way to describe it. However, it’s February 4 and we are going to continue to make strides.”
Tuoyo ended the night with 20 points and a game-high five blocks. It was one point and one block shy of his season-highs. Heading into the night, the 6-foot-10 big man led the Southern Conference and ranked 26th in the country with an average of 2.4 blocks per game.
“We may want to use better discretion when he is around us near the basket,” Young added when asked about how Tuoyo affected the game. “He finds a way to punch our shots out of there. He punched two of them in the first half on the same possession. Again, he’s a senior, but we need to have a better basketball IQ.”
Junior Tre’ McLean led the game with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and junior Chuck Ester rounded out the Mocs in double figures with 12. UTC shot 58.3 percent (28-48), including 61.5 percent (16-26) in the second half.
For Wofford, freshman Fletcher Magee and seniors Justin Gordon and Spencer Collins all ended the night with a team-high 14 points. Magee was 4-for-6 from beyond the arc, but Gordon and Collins were limited to a combined 9-for-32 (28.1 pct.) from the field. As a whole, the Terriers were held under 40 percent for the first time since December 19 at Vanderbilt.
The Terriers looked to set the tone early when senior C.J. Neumann slammed home a bounce pass from Collins just 90 seconds into the game. Magee followed with his first 3-pointer of the night on the next possession as Wofford took advantage of a 5-on-4 opportunity. One of the Mocs was trailing in the backcourt after losing his shoe under his own basket, leaving Magee open for the triple.
Allen sparked Wofford’s first big run. The junior battled for an offensive board, stuck it back in and the Terriers scored the next seven points. Garcia sent in the final five of the run, draining a 3-pointer from the right wing and a long two from the right baseline to put the Terriers ahead 14-7.
Chattanooga brought the press to try and create turnovers. The Terriers did turn it over nine times in the half, but none were a direct result of the press. Another Magee 3-pointer pushed the Terriers in front 24-17 with 6:29 before halftime.
The rest of the half was all Mocs. Tuoyo and McLean combined to score the next 13 points with the first eight coming unanswered to give UTC the lead. A couple of free throws for Gordon briefly interrupted the run before Chattanooga put together a second 8-0 run. An Eric Robertson 3-pointer seconds before the horn gave the Mocs a 36-28 lead at the intermission.
Chattanooga outscored the Terriers 19-4 through the final 6 minutes and change of the first half. During that time, the Terriers went nearly 6 minutes without a field goal and were outrebounded 9-2.
Wofford put forth a great effort to try and get back in the ball game. Chattanooga pushed its lead to double figures for the first time in the opening minutes of the second half, but the Terriers were able to answer. Magee started with a 3-pointer before assisting redshirt junior Ryan Sawvell on a bucket in transition. Junior Jaylen Allen banged in a 3-pointer to close an 8-1 run with the Terriers trailing by just a single possession, 43-40.
Allen followed it up with a steal on the other end and took a shot to tie the game that rimmed out. Duke Ethridge responded for the Mocs, sinking a 3-pointer of his own to push it back to a two-possession game. The Mocs slowly built the lead back to double figures and, with 8:35 to play, Ethridge put down a slam to increase the lead to 14.
Wofford got back within five, but had no answer for Chattanooga’s final run. The Mocs outscored the Terriers 16-6 to close out the game.
Wofford stays on the road to take on Samford on Saturday. Tip time is scheduled for 1 p.m., ET, noon local time, from the Pete Hanna Center in Birmingham, Ala.
– Spencer Collins passed Robert Mickle (1981-85) for 11th on Wofford’s all-time scoring list. Collins now has 1,582 career points and is just 11 points behind Wayne Rice (1983-87) for a spot in the top 10.
– C.J. Neumann recorded a career-high four steals.
– Eric Garcia’s career-long streak of six straight games in double figures came to an end. He scored eight points in Thursday night’s game.