ASHEVILLE, N.C. (Wofford SID) – Storm Murphy scored 15 points against Chattanooga in the Southern Conference semifinals on Sunday night, capping off his night with a mid-range, game-winning jump shot that topped the Mocs 72-70 and sent the Wofford Terriers to its second consecutive SoCon Championship final.
“I thought about a couple of years ago when Fletcher (Magee) had a couple looks and I had a look at the end and it was just short,” Murphy said of a SoCon tournament loss to UNCG in 2017. “Thankfully today it wasn’t short. It went in and I was just happy with our whole team’s efforts. We battled. We came up on top because we were physical and we were together. We’re just excited with how we’ve been playing.”
The seventh-seeded Terriers move to 19-15 overall, and will face the No. 1 seeded ETSU Bucs on Monday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN. Chattanooga drops to 20-13 on the season with the loss.
“Chattanooga was a very, very, very tough opponent,” Wofford head coach Jay McAuley said. “They gave us trouble throughout the regular season, they gave a lot of people a tough time and I just want to say I have a lot of respect for them. It could have gone either way, but at the end of the day we are really excited for this victory.”
Both Chattanooga and Wofford shot an even 50 percent from the floor, with Wofford going 11-for-20 from 3-point range (55.0 percent), outrebounding the Mocs 30-28, dishing out 14 assists in the process. Tray Hollowell, 12 points, and Messiah Jones, 11 points, led a Wofford bench that outscored the Chattanooga reserves 27-16.
“That was fun,” said McAuley. “Another day, another chance to be here. I’m really proud of this team. It seems like we have different guys up here every day do we not? That speaks volumes to our depth.”
Goodwin and Ramon Vila traded buckets to start, with Goodwin giving Wofford a 7-6 lead four minutes into the game. Hollowell began to feel it, knocking down a pair of threes as the Terriers went ahead 18-12, but Chattanooga answered with an 8-0 run to take a two-point lead.
“Vila is an amazing player,” Jones said. “He’s surrounded by lethal shooters. He has the size, the weight, and the skill and that’s rare to find in a big fella. But just try to out-tough and outwork him. We kind of, sort of did that, but we did enough to win the game.”
Murphy kept the offense going for Wofford, hitting a three, a reverse layup and finding Isaiah Bigelow for a 3-pointer to give the Terriers a 30-27 advantage. Murphy added an elbow jumper in transition as Wofford went into the break leading 35-27.
Murphy opened the second in rhythm, scoring a pair of buckets before Hoover put Wofford in front 47-37 with a three-point play. The Mocs stormed back, scoring 13 straight to take a three-point lead with just over 11 minutes remaining. From here, the sides traded points, with Ryan Larson hitting a transition three to put the Terriers ahead by a point, only to have Vila answer the next time down.
After Matt Ryan put Chattanooga ahead, Hollowell evened the score at 64-64 as the teams went to the under-four media timeout. Jones stepped up big down the stretch, scoring a pair of buckets to keep Wofford to within two with 1:29 to play. Larson would knock down two free throws to tie the game at 70-70, and Trevor Stumpe forced a Chattanooga turnover to give the Terriers the last look of regulation.
“This guy battled,” McAuley said of Jones. “Four fouls at the end of the game, he was huge down the stretch. It wasn’t easy, but it could have been the key to the game. I’m so proud of him. I’m so proud of all our guys for having that believe and trust in one another.”
Out of a timeout, Murphy worked his way to the elbow, hesitated and rose up to bury the shot with two seconds to play, sending Wofford to its sixth SoCon Championship game in the last 11 seasons.
“We wanted to get the last shot, and we just felt like if we could get the ball in his hands and if they (Chattanooga) double him, we had Trevor (Stumpe) in the corner and thankfully he made the right play,” McAuley said of the last play. “Big players like that, make big plays. When the ball is in his hands, good things happen.”
“I thought about throwing it to Trevor, but I wasn’t sure if the defender was going to stay on me or not,” Murphy said. “He kind of moved off when I took the next dribble so from there it was a 1-on-1 and I used the shot fake and stepped through. Coaches, teammates have confidence in me which helps so much in those moments, and it was fun.”