Terriers cruise past WCU

College Basketball (NCAAM)

CULLOWHEE, N.C. (Wofford Athletics/WSPA) – Five Terriers reached double figures, led by freshman Morgan Safford with a team-high 14 points, as the Terriers cruised to a 24-point victory 80-56 over the Western Carolina Catamounts (9-14, 2-12 SoCon) at the Ramsey Regional Activity Center on Saturday afternoon.

The victory marks its second consecutive for the Terriers after a brief two-game skid, as Wofford has rekindled its chemistry and rhythm, moving to 11-5 in the Southern Conference and 14-8 overall on the season.

“Really balanced attack on both sides of the ball,” said head coach Jay McAuley. “I thought we were really intentional with generating team scoring opportunities, as well as digging in defensively to get team stops.”

“To have five guys in double figures and have 23 assists [on 33 field goals] and only six turnovers, I was really pleased with our energy and attention to detail,” added McAuley. “We will need that recipe as we finish the regular season and head into the conference tournament.”

The Terriers assisted on 23 makes with just six turnovers for the contest, marking a season-high for assists and season-low for turnovers.

Safford led the way with 14 points, recording 12 in the first half on 2-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc (40%), two rebounds and a steal, followed by classmate Sam Godwin with 12 points on 6-of-8 from the floor (75%) and two rebounds.

Wofford has seen plenty of contributions from its impressive core of first-years this season, as Safford (9.1) and Godwin (6.6) are third and sixth, respectively, among all freshmen in the SoCon in scoring – with Max Klesmit (8.8) behind Safford at fourth among all first-years.

The Terriers’ trio of Storm Murphy, Tray Hollowell and Messiah Jones all finished with 11 points apiece, seeing Hollowell (3) and Murphy (2) combine for five threes on the day, while Jones also hit his first trey since nailing a three at Richmond on Dec. 7. Jones and Murphy added four and three assists, respectively, while Hollowell  and Murphy each grabbed three rebounds.

Hollowell has now recorded three or more threes in 11 games this season, while the Terriers finished with at least 10 threes as a team for the 13th time (10-for-25, 40%), ranked 11th in the nation for 3-point field goals per game (10.4). Today’s performance additionally marks the 15th time Wofford has had at least three Terriers hit two or more threes.

Junior Ryan Larson filled the stat sheet with eight points, hitting 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, while matching a season-high with eight assists and pulling down a season-high seven rebounds.

Freshmen Max Klemsit and Keaton Turner added five and four points, respectively, while Turner set a career-high with five assists.

Wofford came out with the first punch, exploding for 50 points over the opening 20 minutes on 21-of-34 from the field (61.8%) and eight first-half 3-pointers at a 50-percent clip to set itself up for a cozy 23-point lead at the intermission, 50-27.

A 21-6 run to end the half set up the halftime lead, as threes from Klesmit and Hollowell pushed an 11-point lead that got things going for Wofford with 6:13 remaining in the half at 32-21.

The run saw six different scorers, as finishes from Safford and Sam Godwin prior to a Murphy three pushed a 16-point edge at 39-23. Back-to-back finishes from Godwin and Austin Patterson ensued, before a transition dunk from Godwin, Messiah Jones lay and buzzer-beating three-ball from Larson capped the run at the intermission.

Wofford remained consistent in scoring the ball in the second half, maintaining 20-point spreads until reaching its largest lead of the contest at 30 points, 65-35, by the 12:58 mark after a Jones layup. Western Carolina’s Cory Hightower, who led the Catamounts with a game-high 26 points, paced a five-point spurt to cut the deficit to 24 (67-43), though, the Terriers kept a steady attack in scoring nine of the following 14 points to bust the spread back to 28 points at 76-48 (6:11).

From there, the Terriers would ride out the rest of the frame to walk away with the convincing 80-56 victory, finishing even with the Catamounts on the boards for the contest (30-30), despite dominating the paint with 42 of Wofford’s 80 coming from inside.

Next, Wofford was scheduled to travel to Birmingham, Alabama for a Monday night ESPNU matchup at Samford, however, the conference office announced Saturday that Monday’s Southern Conference men’s basketball game between Wofford and Samford has been postponed due to positive COVID tests and quarantine requirements within Samford’s program.

Wofford (14-8, 11-5 SoCon) is now currently scheduled to host Furman (15-7, 9-4 SoCon) on Saturday, February 27, at the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium for a 7 p.m. tip for its regular-season finale against the Paladins.

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