Second-half surge propels Wofford past Chattanooga

College Basketball (NCAAM)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Wofford Athletics/WSPA) – The Wofford men’s basketball team overcame a 13-point halftime deficit to explode for a monster second half, scoring 55 points in the final 20 minutes to outlast Chattanooga at McKenzie Arena on Saturday afternoon, 77-59.

The win marks Wofford’s third consecutive, as the Terriers move to 8-4 overall and 5-1 in the Southern Conference.

“Really proud. I thought that was probably our most complete half of the year, in terms of bearing down and getting collective stops, loose balls, rebounds and really executing in hitting open shots and trusting the team scores,” said head coach Jay McAuley of the win. “The whole key to the game was – win the glass, you win the game. We were down 10 at half on the glass and were plus-21 in the second half and had 14 offensive rebounds. They bought in to that … it was just a really cool thing to watch and this is why I love coaching this group and so does our staff.”

The Terriers hold a 4-0 record on the road through conference play. The last time the Terriers opened with a flawless start in road conference games was during the 2018-19 banner year that saw Wofford go 18-0 in the SoCon.

Wofford’s 55 second-half total marks the most points scored in a half this season, as the Terriers hit 16-of-33 from the floor (48.5%) and shot 42.9 percent from beyond the arc (6-of-14) in the final frame to overcome leads as large as 14 points throughout the contest.

The Terriers outscored Chattanooga by 31 points in the second half, 55-24, and outrebounded the Mocs for the contest, 42-31.

Senior Storm Murphy turned in his fifth 20-point performance of the season, netting a game-high 23 points for a second consecutive game on 7-of-19 shooting, including three 3-pointers, and perfect 6-for-6 from the line. Murphy also dished a game-high five assists and grabbed five rebounds on the day.

Additionally, Murphy solidified his position at 10th all-time for career 3-point field goals at Wofford, passing Kevin Giltner with 192 for his career.

Freshman Morgan Safford tallied 19 points on 7-of-9 shots from the field, including two threes and hitting 3-of-4 shots from the charity stripe.

“He’s [Morgan Safford] talented. He’s got a lot of skills … with Isaiah Bigelow out this year, we had to move him around,” added McAuley of Safford. “He’s the smartest guy on our basketball team. He can literally run any position and, when you have a high basketball IQ and can put guys in different spots, he makes up for whatever lack of size with his smarts, his toughness, his length and just really proud of him.”

Safford matched a season-high seven rebounds for a second consecutive game, while also dishing out two assists.

“My coaches have challenged me more in practice to be aggressive,” said Safford of his offensive contributions over the past three games. “At first, I was a little timid because I am a freshman and it was new to me. But, my coaches knew the player I was and they just challenged me to go out there and do it and that’s what I feel like I’m doing now, and I’m just glad my teammates gave me the ball in the right spots.” 

Senior Tray Hollowell rounds out Wofford’s double-figure scorers with 10 points, hitting two threes and two free throws, and two assists in 36 minutes.

Freshmen Max Klesmit (8 points, 2-for-5 3FG) and Sam Godwin (six points, seven rebounds) added solid contributions, while sophomore B.J. Mack also added six points and five rebounds. Despite a quiet day scoring the ball, junior Ryan Larson was key for the Terriers on the glass and defensive end, notching a game-high eight rebounds and three steals in 29 minutes.

Wofford opened the contest holding a 12-9 advantage, on five points from Morgan Safford and scores from B.J. Mack and Storm Murphy, prior to the Mocs busting a 9-0 run to hold a firm 18-12 lead. Tray Hollowell then brought the margin back to within one on his own 5-0 spurt, featuring a tough layup and three from the left wing, to make the score 18-17 by the 8:07 mark.

The Mocs managed to keep possessions alive, using the momentum of six second-chance points off seven offensive rebounds in the frame to explode for a 15-2 scoring surge that busted its largest lead at 33-19 with 2:33 left. Wofford was held scoreless for three minutes during Chattanooga’s run before Hollowell found Storm Muphy for a corner three to ultimately make the spread 35-22 at the intermission.

Chattanooga pounded it inside through the opening 20 minutes, recording 20 of its 35 first-half points inside the paint. The Mocs also converted six points off six Wofford turnovers, as the Terriers were held to just 9-of-24 from the field (37.5%) in the first half.

Wofford opened the second half scoring 10 of the first 14 points, as a Max Klesmit three closed the gap to within five, 39-34, in four minutes. The Mocs were paced by Malachi Smith and David Jean-Baptiste, maintaining a six to eight-point spread, before a 10-0 Wofford run reclaimed its first lead of the half, 48-46, by the 9:18 mark.

Five points from Klesmit sparked the run, as a Murphy scoop layup and steal from Larson that led to converting two free throws cut the margin to one, before Murphy would drill a corner trey on an inbound from Hollowell to take the lead.

The hosts knotted the score up twice over a three-minute span, though, Safford capped a crucial 7-0 run for the Terriers after finishing a layup and knocking down a big second-chance 3-pointer that gave Wofford a seven-point advantage, 59-52 (4:46).

Managing to draw timely foul calls on the Mocs to enter the bonus, the Terriers capitalized from the free throw line before a Sam Godwin dunk and pair of free throws ensued to fuel a 14-point advantage with 1:33 left, 73-59. A Safford score followed before Murphy free throws busted the spread to 18 points with 29 seconds left, as Wofford would hang on for the 77-59 win as time expired.

The Terriers finished 18-for-24 from the free throw line for the contest (75%).

Wofford held the Mocs to 39.3 percent from the field (22-of-56) and 19 percent form 3-point range (4-of-21) for the contest.

Wofford received 16 points from its bench compared to Chattanooga’s five, as the Mocs were led by Malachi Smith and David Jean-Baptiste with 15 and 11 points respectively.

Next, Wofford (8-4, 5-1 SoCon) returns to the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium, hosting Western Carolina on Saturday, January 23 for a 7 p.m. tip.

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