SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Wofford SID)– The Wofford men’s basketball team opened the new year with a hard-fought 94-84 win over the Samford Bulldogs (5-4, 1-1 SoCon) on Saturday night, as the Terriers shot a blistering hot 63.3 percent from the field and connected on 16-of-28 from downtown (57.1%) at the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium to move their overall record to 5-3 and 2-0 in the Southern Conference.
“They’re a well-coached team. We knew it was going to be a fight,” said head coach Jay McAuley of the Bulldogs. “Coach [McMillan] has got them really believing in their system early on. It was a system we haven’t faced yet this year and, with some younger guys, I was real interested to see how we would handle ourselves.”
“Even though we got off to a slow start, we stayed aggressive, stayed simple and stayed confident on offense. I was really proud of how we came up,” added McAuley. “To hold that team to 40 percent in the second half, that was the difference.”
Storm Murphy led all five double-figure scorers for the Terriers on the night with his first career double-double, recording 23 points on 5-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc (55.5%) and a career-high 11 assists in 36 minutes. Additionally, Murphy tied a career-high with a perfect 8-for-8 outing from the free-throw line in the contest.
“We were really resilient. That’s just been the theme of the year,” said Murphy of the team’s fight throughout the game. “Resilience is a key thing. When we have a turnover, don’t get a call, miss a shot … we have to stay level-headed and stick with it. I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight, ultimately, coming out of here with a 10-point win.”
Sophomore B.J. Mack poured in a career-high 15 points on 6-of-9 from the field to go along with a team-high six rebounds and two steals in 20 minutes. Senior Tray Hollowell continued his steady scoring presence with 15 points, connecting on 4-of-7 from deep (57.1%), marking the sixth game this year Hollowell has knocked down at least three 3-point field goals in a contest. Hollowell also added three assists on the night.
Freshman Morgan Safford scored 14 points, matching a career-high four made threes in the contest, while classmate Sam Godwin finished with 13 points, on a perfect 4-for-4 performance from the field and five free throws, and three rebounds. Junior Ryan Larson and freshman Max Klesmit finished with seven points each, as Larson also pulled down six rebounds and dished four assists on the night.
After a back-and-forth first half that saw both teams shoot over 60 percent and combine for 99 points, the Terriers held Samford to 41.2 percent from the floor and just 22.2 percent from 3-point range (2-9) to hold the edge for the win in the final 20 minutes.
Both teams played neck-and-neck through the first 20 minutes, as Samford used its full-court run and jump press to speed Wofford’s pace, forcing a season-high 23 turnovers on Wofford for the contest. However, the Terriers would manage to gain their composure and find their chemistry on the offensive end, connecting on 9-of-15 from 3-point land in the first half (60%) to support a 50-49 lead at halftime.
Wofford came out the intermission spirited, as back-to-back threes from Ryan Larson and Storm Murphy gave the Terriers a seven-point cushion to start the second frame, 56-49. A B.J. Mack three, followed by a pair of Godwin free throws and another Mack finish, paced the Terriers as Wofford managed to keep an eight-point differential, 67-59, with 13:34 left.
After the under-11 media timeout, Samford’s Preston Parks used a five-point spurt to bring the Bulldogs within one, 67-66, at the 10:21 mark, though, Mack would answer with a jumper from the top of the key and fast break finish from Murphy prior to Morgan Safford drilling a trey that pushed the margin back to eight, 74-66, with 8:01 to go. Both teams would exchange baskets over the next three minutes, seeing Samford come within four points (78-74), before a Murphy 3-pointer, tough post layup from Mack and another Murphy three-ball pushed the margin to double-digits, 86-76, by the 3:42 mark.
Able to break the Samford press and having reached the bonus, the Terriers would manage to control and handle the Bulldogs for the remainder of the contest, seeing free throws and late scores from Murphy, Safford and Ryan Larson to allow Wofford to walk away with the 94-84 win at the buzzer.
The Terriers received 35 points from its bench in the contest, while outrebounding Samford 28-26. Additionally, Wofford was 80 percent from the charity stripe on the night (16-20). The Bulldogs notched 42 points inside the paint for the contest, led by Jacob Tryon with 19 points and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs. Myron Gordon (16), Logan Dye (13) and A.J. Staton-McCray (13) round out the double-figure scorers for Samford.
Wofford is back in action at the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium on Wednesday, Jan. 6, hosting UNCG for a 7 p.m. tip.