ASHEVILLE, N.C. (Wofford SID) – The Wofford men’s basketball team, seeded fifth, downed No. 4 seed Chattanooga in the quarterfinals of the Southern Conference tournament on Saturday afternoon at the US Cellular Center. With the win, Wofford improves to 16-16 on the season and advances to face No. 1 seed UNCG in the semifinals on Sunday, March 5 at 5 pm.
The win is the first of the season over the Mocs, the only team to sweep Wofford in the regular season, and ends a five game losing streak to Chattanooga. It is also the first Wofford win on a neutral site this season.
“I thought we had a lot of guys make good basketball plays that helped propel us to a win,” said Wofford head coach Mike Young. “There is a special connectedness with this team and that manifests when it matters most. It was an all-around team win and I’m proud of this group.”
Three Terriers scored 17+ points to pace the Wofford offense. Fletcher Magee led with 24 points, 20 of which came in the second half. Magee was 7-16 from the field, 5-10 from beyond the arc and 5-6 from the free throw line. Four of the sophomore’s three’s came in the second half of play. The First Team All-SoCon selection has scored in double digits in every game this season and for 42 consecutive games spanning back to January of last season. It is his 13th game this season with atleast 20 points.
Eric Garcia followed with 18 points. The senior point guard was 3-7 from the field, 2-6 from three point range and a perfect 10-10 from the charity stripe. Garcia is shooting 92% from the line this season, tops in the conference and sixth best nationally. The First Team All-SoCon selection also contributed four rebounds, five assists and a game high three steals.
Nathan Hoover scored 17 points, just one short of his career high set at LSU in the opening game of the season. The All-Freshman Team member was 6-9 from the field, 3-6 from three point range and 2-2 from the line in 35 minutes of play.
Matthew Pegram added eight points and three rebounds while Cameron Jackson tallied six points and seven rebounds to help Wofford down low.
Wofford didn’t trail the entire contest. Ryan Sawvell put the Terriers on the board first, just one minute into the game. The Mocs tied it at four apiece and pulled within one to make it 9-8, but Wofford went up six, 16-10, with 12 minutes left in the first half and never looked back. The Mocs again pulled within one point to make it 20-19 but Wofford used a 6-0 run to extend the lead back out. The Terriers held a slight 31-28 advantage nearing halftime, but Chattanooga forced a turnover and Jonathan Burroughs-Cook sunk a three pointer with three seconds to go to send the teams into the locker room tied at 31.
After shooting 40% in the first half, Wofford shot 59.3% from the field in the second half of action.
“It was not anything I sprinkled on them at the half,” said Young. “We didn’t have a grand plan, we just went out there and played. My players know that if you got it, let it rip. They do not need me to tell them that. They do the rest and make me look like I know what I’m doing.”
Wofford came out of the halftime break firing and scored the first seven points of the half to force Chattanooga head coach Matt McCall to call a timeout. Wofford kept Chattanooga at bay and stretched the lead to 11 with just over seven minutes left in the contest. A layup by the Mocs cut the lead to nine with just over two minutes to go but Magee and Garcia scored the next nine points to give Wofford a 15 point advantage. Chattanooga’s Makale Foreman hit a three pointer with 35 second to go, but Wofford held on for the 12 point victory.
Tre’ McLean led Chattanooga with 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. The Terriers held the Defensive Player of the Year, Justin Tuoyo, to just 13 points and three rebounds.
Wofford shot 50% in the game and the Mocs shot 49%. A major difference came at the free throw line where Wofford sunk 17-19 to shoot 89.5%, while Chattanooga was just 11-19 (57.9%). The Terriers took advantage of the Mocs’ 14 turnovers and outscored Chattanooga 20-11 in points off turnovers while Chattanooga outscored Wofford 30-22 in points in the paint.
Wofford faces UNCG on Sunday in the semifinals. The Terriers beat the Spartans 93-74 at home on Jan. 25 before falling by the same 19 point margin, 74-55, in Greensboro on Feb. 15. UNCG beat ninth-seeded The Citadel 76-67 on Saturday in the quarterfinals.