SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Furman took the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium floor Friday night having not won in Spartanburg since 2011. Wofford was not about to let that change.
The Terriers placed three scorers in double figures and led wire-to-wire Friday, turning back their rival Furman, 66-52, before a sellout crowd of 3,400 Friday night.
The mindset for Wofford had seeds planted two days prior.
Chattanooga had outplayed Wofford in the first half Wednesday, taking a 43-20 advantage to the half before the Terriers bounced back in the second to fall, 72-59. The trek from Tennessee proved cathartic.
“As you could imagine, our bus ride home the other night – we had a lot of time to reflect,” said Wofford coach Jay McAuley. “What we said was (that) we were gonna flush the first half and focus on how we played in the second half, winning 39-29, with 10 assists and two turnovers, and holding them under 30 percent. That’s Wofford basketball. That carried over in shootaround, and the last 48 hours, our mentality has been defense and rebounding, and I thought you saw that show up.”
Wofford (12-7, 4-2 SoCon) started as strong as one could hope, building a 10-0 lead and getting the full house involved early. The visiting Paladins collected their first basket roughly six minutes into the game on a Mike Bothwell triple from the top of the key, but the Terriers continued to hold Furman at bay. Furman sliced the lead to 17-10 at the 7:40 mark, but consecutive threes from Nathan Hoover, Tray Hollowell, and Trevor Stumpe extended the margin back to 16 and again ignited the crowd.
The Terriers continued their fierce defense and hot shooting, securing a 34-18 lead at the interval. Wofford shot 46.7 percent (14-for-30) from the deck in the opening 20, holding Furman to just 32 percent (8-for-25). The trifecta of triples proved unusual for the home side in the first, as it hit on just 1-of-8 tries outside those three. Chevez Goodwin bolstered the Terriers’ offensive attack in the first, tallying 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
The advantage remained in double figures for the majority of the second half. Furman (15-5, 5-2) had several opportunities to knife the lead, but every Paladin punch was greeted with a counter from the Terriers. A Mike Bothwell triple at the 7:06 mark finally brought the Wofford advantage back to single digits for the first time since about the seven-minute mark of the first half.
As quickly as that run appeared, though, Wofford snuffed it out. The Terriers replied with back-to-back strikes beyond the arc from Nathan Hoover and Trevor Stumpe, quickly extending the lead back to 16 and essentially putting away the Paladins one final time.
“I think what you saw there was (that) obviously they were playing from behind, and they were more aggressive, lowering their head, getting some fouls, and hitting some threes that they weren’t hitting in the first half,” McAuley stated. “We were kind of playing a little more conservative, but you can’t do that at any level. Certainly, in the last four minutes, we made those one more plays, and made the right plays to break that thing open.”
Goodwin and his teammates also knew the run was coming.
“They have a veteran team and a great coaching staff. We have a great coaching staff, too. When they go on their run, we have a run, too. That’s the game of basketball,” Goodwin stated. “We knew we weren’t going to put them away just because we were up by a couple of points. We had to come out here and play defense and get stops, and that’s what we did at the end to seal it away.”
“I loved how we bounced back,” added guard Storm Murphy. “When that adversity came, and they brought it back to eight, it seemed like we turned up again and got stops, and we were able to run. I think transition is gonna be huge for us moving forward, and we showed how dangerous we can be in that.”
The win seemed to serve as a statement from the Terriers that, no matter the standings or Furman’s seventh spot in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25, the defending SoCon champs are still a force.
“I think we proved, absolutely, what we’ve believed all season, what we’ve believed since this summer, that we are the reigning champs, and that we’re not gonna go away,” stated Murphy. “We’re gonna continue to fight and fight and get better every day. We’ve got a lot of talent (and) a lot of hard-working guys.”
Goodwin led all scorers with 18 points for the Terriers, adding seven boards in 25 minutes of play. Hoover contributed 17 on 7-for-10 shooting, with Stumpe totaling 11. Wofford shot 28-for-57 (49.1 percent) from the floor in the victory.
Noah Gurley finished with 15 to pace the Paladins, connecting on 7-of-9 tries from the field. Bothwell added 13 in just shy of 31 minutes off the bench. Star guard Jordan Lyons was held to just five points, as none of his eight attempts from the field found the net.
Both teams will be off until Wednesday, when they resume their SoCon slates on their home floors. Wofford welcomes VMI to Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium, while Furman will host Samford at the Timmons Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. Tip time for both games is slated for 7:00 (Eastern).