Wofford tops ETSU, grabs first SoCon win

College Basketball (NCAAM)

Wofford Basketball

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Wofford Athletics) – Wofford picked up its first Southern Conference win and victory of the New Year on Saturday afternoon, dropping ETSU (9-7, 1-2 SoCon) at Freedom Hall, 68-57, behind a dominant 22-point effort from junior forward B.J. Mack.

Max Klesmit and Isaiah Bigelow contributed 12 points apiece, as the Terriers move to 9-6 overall and 1-2 in the SoCon.

“A lot of credit to our guys and their resiliency. This is not an easy place to play,” said head coach Jay McAuley of the win inside Freedom Hall. “This is a challenging environment and for a lot of guys, this was a baptism to college basketball with fans and things not going our way. But, at the end of the day, I thought a switch turned on in the second half that was our basketball team. It was Wofford basketball.”

“Guys were sharing the ball, moving that thing … So many things that we want statistically,” added McAuley on the execution over the final 20 minutes. “How about 23 deflections in the second half and six kills [three consecutive stops]. Man, what a great job by our team.”

The Terriers clamped down defensively in the second half, forcing 10 turnovers in return for 17 of their 36 points in the period, while shooting 46.7 percent (14-of-30) and hitting 7-of-16 from deep in the second half (43.8%) en route to securing the 11-point victory.

The Bucs finished the contest 44.4 percent from the field, though, hitting 10-of-28 from beyond the arc (35.7%).

“We’ve got to guard the three better. We’re getting hit up pretty good there but the effort on the glass the last few games, I cannot complain about that,” added McAuley. “Our guys are flying around, hitting bodies, coming up with loose balls. The only thing that I thought maybe kept them in the game a little bit was our loud turnovers. If we can clean that up and have the same effort rebounding, deflections, we’ll be doing okay.”

The Terriers won the rebound battle, 36-27, while corralling 21 second-chance points on 11 offensive rebounds and tallying 23 points off 16 ETSU turnovers for the contest. Additionally, Wofford tallied 16 assists despite recording 12 turnovers.

Junior B.J. Mack eclipsed the 20-point mark for the third time this season, leading with 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting, including two 3-pointers, and seven rebounds. The Charlotte, N.C., native has been efficient from deep over the last five games, hitting 7-of-10 from beyond the arc (70%).

Max Klesmit and Isaiah Bigelow followed with 12 points each, each hitting two threes apiece, while Bigelow fell just short of a double-double with a game-high nine rebounds. Klesmit dished four assists, as Bigelow followed with three of his own.

Sophomore Morgan Safford tallied eight points and seven rebounds, as Ryan Larson chipped in six points, five rebounds and four assists.

The Bucs were led by David Sloan’s 24 points and four rebounds, followed by Ledarrius Brewer’s 18 points.

Trailing 14-12 by the 12:24 mark of the first half, the Terriers used a brief 11-3 run to jump out to its largest lead in the first half, 23-17.

A five-point play would spark the run, as Austin Patterson converted 2-of-3 at the free-throw line after being fouled on a three, while Isaiah Bigelow muscled the offensive rebound on the miss to dime Klesmit for a 3-pointer (17-14). Patterson and Bigelow then connected on back-to-back trey balls to hold the six-point advantage by the under-eight media timeout (7:51).

ETSU used a 5-0 spurt to come back within one, 23-22, as B.J. Mack paced the Terriers through the remainder of the frame, netting the final nine points of the half, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key, to take a 32-29 edge into the locker room at the intermission.

Morgan Safford opened the second half with a big three to put the Terriers up by six, 35-29, though, ETSU’s Ledarrius Brewer began to heat up on back-to-back threes to tie the margin at 35-35. From there, Ryan Larson and Isaiah Bigelow would trade 3-pointers with the Bucs’ Sloan (41-41) prior to a B.J. Mack jumper holding a 43-41 edge at the under-16 media by the 14:19 mark.

Sam Godwin would finish a lay with contact and convert at the line (46-41), as Safford would go on to connect on his second three of the game from the right wing to spark a 9-0 run and push Wofford’s first double-figure lead, 55-44, by the 8:55 mark. 

After Safford’s three, the sophomore guard would collect an offensive board to find Mack for a big three to go up eight, 52-44. Safford then stole a bad pass by Sloan en route to dishing to Klesmit for a knockdown corner trey that forced an ETSU timeout. During the run, the Terriers held ETSU scoreless for over four minutes, while forcing four turnovers over the stretch.

The Terriers would maintain double-figure spreads for the remainder, as a Larson three pushed a 13-point lead, 60-47, prior to a Klesmit layup and Mack turnaround jumper pushing Wofford’s biggest lead of the day at 64-50 with 3:32 to play. ETSU’s Sloan would bury a three the next trip down, though, a corner jumper from Bigelow kept the margin at 13 points (66-53) to ultimately seal the deal, as the Terriers would secure a pair of stops prior to a Klesmit layup eventually finishing the contest at 68-57 by the final horn.

Wofford finished the contest 26-of-61 from the field (42.6%) and 11-of-34 from 3-point range (32.4%), having notched 10-plus made 3-pointers in four of the last five games in comparison to its season average of 9.4.

Additionally, The Terriers bested the Bucs in points inside the paint, 22-14, and bench points, 17-3.

Next, Wofford (9-6, 1-2 SoCon) will travel to Greensboro, N.C., for a Monday night (Jan. 10) matchup at UNCG, slated for a 6 p.m. tip at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Terriers will then return back to Spartanburg for a midweek tilt against Samford on Wednesday, Jan. 12, for a 7 p.m. matchup at Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium.

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