CULLOWHEE, N.C. (Wofford SID) – Wofford suffered from its lowest shooting percentage of the Southern Conference season and fell to the streaking Western Carolina Catamounts, 53-48, Thursday evening in Southern Conference men’s basketball action at the Ramsey Center.
The Terriers took a 46-42 lead with 8 minutes to play on freshman Fletcher Magee’s sixth 3-pointer of the night. Magee scored a game-high 22 points and was 6-for-8 from beyond the arc.
Wofford was held to just 2 points the rest of the game. Justin Gordon’s jumper with 1:34 to go cut Western Carolina’s lead to 50-48 and Wofford had a chance to tie or take the lead with under a minute to play, but Gordon’s next shot was blocked by Justin Browning. Fellow senior C.J. Neumann was there to grab Wofford’s 13th offensive rebound and give the Terriers another shot at it, but he had it stolen away in the post by Browning.
Wofford fouled Browning with 15 seconds left and the Catamount senior hit both free throws to cement Western Carolina’s (14-16, 9-8 SoCon) sixth win in its last seven games.
Wofford (15-15, 11-6 SoCon) ended the night shooting 34.5 percent (19-55), including a 28-percent second half in which they managed seven field goals.
“Obviously, we weren’t very good offensively,” said head coach Mike Young in his postgame radio interview. “What really concerns me is that we were 3-for-6 from the free throw line and had a negative assist to turnover ratio. That’s disconcerting. It’s cause for alarm and causes you to lose ball games.”
Despite their offensive struggles, the Terriers were able to hang in the game thanks to a solid defensive effort. Western Carolina shot 33 percent in the second half (8-24) and ended the night just a shade above 40 percent. Their leading scorers were seniors Mike Brown and Rhett Harrelson, who each scored a dozen.
“We may have guarded the best we have all season,” added Young on his team’s defensive effort. “If you told me we would hold (Western Carolina) to 53 at the beginning of the night, I’d tell you my team would win by 10.
“Western is playing good basketball. They absolutely dismantled Chattanooga in here the other night and are playing very well as a unit.”
Magee posted his 10th straight game in double figures and was 8-of-14 from the floor to go with his six triples. However, he was the lone Terrier to reach double figures. Senior Spencer Collins, Wofford’s leading scorer heading into the night, was held to seven points on 3-of-12 shooting. Junior Eric Garcia was held scoreless for the first time all season, but ran the point to a game-high seven assists without a turnover.
Wofford outrebounded the Catamounts 39-32, including 23-12 in the first half. Neumann led the effort with a game-high 11 rebounds and came a point away from a double-double. Collins added seven rebounds to go with his seven points.
Haboubacar Mutombo led Western Carolina with eight rebounds. Reigning SoCon Player of the Week Senior Torrion Brummitt, who had recorded six straight double-doubles heading into the game, was held to just nine points and five rebounds.
Senior Justin Gordon started hot, connecting for Wofford’s first four points on his first two attempts. However, the Terriers went cold, missing their next seven shots, and Western took a 9-4 lead. Brummitt scored five in the early going.
Wofford dominated the glass all half, but could not convert those opportunities to second-chance points. They were outrebounding the Catamounts 6-0 on the offensive end through the first eight minutes, but had only six points to show for it. Four quick points by Magee pushed the Terriers back in front, 10-9.
Western responded with an 8-0 run and a 4-point play from senior Rhett Harrelson helped push the lead to 24-14, the largest of the night for either side.
Wofford punched back with a big run to get back in it. Collins cut the margin back to single digits with jumper and the Terriers scored 13 of the next 14 points. Magee scorched the nets for nine straight, all on 3-point shots, pushing Wofford back in front, 27-25.
Wofford didn’t score for the final 3:44 of the half and Western took a 30-27 lead into the locker rooms. Magee led all scorers with 13 and Wofford was outrebounding Western by a considerable margin, 23-12, including 11-2 on the offensive glass, but had converted for just seven second-chance points. Harrelson led all Catamounts with nine points.
Magee brought the game even with a triple less than 2 minutes into the second half. Three minutes later, he put the Terriers in front with another bomb. Neumann made it a 41-37 lead with 14:21 remaining by converting a 3-point play.
The offense stalled and Western Carolina took advantage. The Terriers scored seven points the rest of the way and fell to 4-13 on the road.
Wofford heads to ETSU (20-10, 13-4 SoCon) for the regular season finale on Saturday. Tip is set for 4 p.m. from Freedom Hall. The Terriers will either be the No. 3 or No. 4 seed for the Southern Conference Tournament, which begins Friday, March 4, in Asheville, N.C.
– Wofford needs to beat ETSU and have Furman lose at Western Carolina to be the No. 3 seed in the Southern Conference Tournament. A Wofford loss or Furman win would make the Terriers the No. 4 seed.
– Fletcher Magee recorded his fifth 20-point game of the season and third in his last six outings. Magee upped his 3-point percentage to 47.4 percent on the season and 52 percent in Southern Conference play.
– Western Carolina took a 26-25 lead in the all-time series. Wofford’s six-game series winning streak was snapped.