Wofford Men’s rally falls short against Coastal Carolina

College Basketball (NCAAM)

Wofford Basketball

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Wofford Athletics) – The Wofford men’s basketball team climbed back from a 15-point second-half deficit to hold the lead with under a minute to play at Coastal Carolina (5-3) on Sunday afternoon, but a pair of costly fouls late in the game put the Chanticleers on the line to allow Coastal to edge Wofford 60-59 at the HTC Center in Conway, S.C.

Four Terriers finished in double figures, led by Max Klesmit with 15 points, as the loss drops Wofford to 7-4 on the season.

“We weren’t as committed to what we do on a daily basis. They’ve got a choice in that locker room and obviously a lot to learn here,” said head coach Jay McAuley of the loss. “The first four minutes and last four minutes, we were really committed to what we wanted to do. You saw some good movement, some shots go in, and obviously our defense reflected that, but we didn’t handle some things very well.”

“Missed block-out at the end. Not a two-foot play at the end. Didn’t come up with a loose ball at the end. They made the free throws, they made the plays,” added McAuley of the late-game scenarios Wofford faced. “We obviously fouled one the last two possessions. That wasn’t very too intelligent on our part.”

Sunday’s contest saw nine lead changes and nine tied scores throughout, as Wofford narrowly almost came away with the victory after leading for just 9:50 of the game.

Klesmit notched his ninth game in double figures this season, knocking down 6-for-6 at the line en route to his team-high 15 points. The Neenah, Wisc., native also added four rebounds and a career-high four assists. Freshman Austin Patterson continued his impressive contributions, finishing with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting beyond the arc in 20 minutes off the bench.

Isaiah Bigelow tallied 11 points, including three 3-pointers, and three rebounds, followed by Morgan Safford with 10 points on 3-of-7 from deep and four rebounds.

Coastal Carolina was led by Essam Mostafa with 24 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Ebrima Dibba with 12 points.

The first half opened a back-and-forth affair, as the Terriers knocked down 8-of-17 from beyond the arc (47.1%) over the opening 20 minutes for 24 of its 27 first-half points.

Morgan Safford and Max Klesmit opened with Wofford’s first two 3-pointers prior to the Chanticleers answering with a pair of their own at 6-6 through the opening minutes of play. Both teams traded leads over the ensuing possessions, as Isaiah Bigelow knocked down a corner trey to take a 9-8 edge, followed by Austin Patterson’s first trey of the game to reclaim a 12-10 advantage.

Ryan Larson would be the next to connect from distance following Patterson’s make, as the Terriers held a 15-14 lead by the 7:08 mark. Out of the break, Patterson drilled one from the top of the key (18-16) prior to the Chanticleers climbing back for its first lead of the day after a corner 3-pointer with 4:00 remaining, 21-19. Seeing seven lead changes in the half, Patterson then continued to pace the Terriers, burying another pair of 3-pointers that went on to knot the margin at 25-25. Luke Turner deadlocked the spread at 27-27 for the fourth tied margin of the half, though, a Rudi Williams layup handed a 29-27 advantage for Coastal Carolina at the intermission. 

The Chanticleers shot 46.4 percent in the first half (13-of-28), including a dominant 18-2 differential on points inside the paint, while Austin Patterson led Wofford with 12 first-half points.

Knotted up at 31-31 after an Isaiah Bigelow and-one through the opening minutes of the second half, the Chanticleers used a 10-0 run to bust its first double-digit lead of the game, 41-31, as Coastal’s Mostafa led the charge in pushing their largest lead of the game by the 9:13 mark at 51-36. Wofford wouldn’t waiver, though, answering with a determined 15-0 run to climb back and deadlock the contest at 51-51 with 4:49 remaining.

Morgan Safford sparked the run with a timely 3-pointer before Isaiah Bigelow would splash a corner three on the find from Klesmit in front of the Wofford bench to cut the deficit to single digits, 51-45. Klesmit then went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line over the ensuing minute (51-49) before tying the spread with six-straight on a finish at the rim to force a Chanticleers’ timeout at 51-51.

A controversial flop-technical on a Bigelow 3-point attempt allowed Coastal to reclaim a brief 54-51 lead, though, Safford answered with his third trifecta of the contest to tie the game at 54-54. The lead changed again prior to a Klesmit finish knotting things up once more (56-56), as the Terriers got a crucial stop that resulted in Klesmit diming B.J. Mack for a dagger 3-pointer at the top of the key to push Wofford’s momentum with a 59-56 advantage with 56.1 seconds to play.

Coastal’s Rudi Williams managed to draw a foul on Larson, missing the front-end of a one-and-one to see the Chanticleers’ Mostafa secure the rebound and be fouled going up; as he’d hit both at the line for a 59-58 differential with 40 seconds left. Coastal Carolina got a stop on the other end and raced up the court for a final look with just 8.0 seconds left, as Larson would be called for another critical foul to put Coastal’s Ebrima Dibba on the line in the double-bonus with 1.0 seconds left on the clock.

Dibba managed to knock down both to take the 60-59 edge, as Klesmit found a last-chance heave from the right wing, narrowly almost banking in the shot, though, it would come off the rim at the horn to grant the Chanticleers the win at the end of regulation.

Wofford hit a season-high 13-of-36 from the 3-point line (36.1%) on the afternoon, though, finishing just 35.8 percent from the field overall on 19-of-53 shooting. The Terriers hit 72.7 percent of their looks from the charity stripe (8-for-11).

The Chanticleers connected on 48 percent from the field for the contest (24-for-50), including a vast 38-12 advantage on points inside the paint, while hitting 4-of-13 from deep range (30.8%).

Coastal Carolina held a plus-nine advantage on the boards for the game (38-29), while earning nine second-chance points off 11 offensive rebounds throughout the contest.

Wofford (7-4) takes a brief hiatus for finals week before traveling to Clinton, S.C., for a road tilt at Presbyterian on Saturday, Dec. 18. Tip-off is slated for a 4 p.m. start on ESPN+.

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