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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

Basketball team off to best start in program history

Justin+Gordon+dunks+during+Wofford%E2%80%99s+home+opener+against+Iona.
Justin Gordon dunks during Wofford’s home opener against Iona.

THREE 1,000-POINT SCORERS ON THIS YEAR’S TEAM ARE UNSTOPPABLE—

With three championships in the past five years, the Wofford men’s basketball team can hardly fly under the radar in the Southern Conference. Despite these increased expectations and the respect that they demand from every conference opponent, the Terrier basketball team is off to the best start in the Division I history of the program. Head Coach Mike Young is in his 13th year as head coach and his 26th year as a member of the coaching staff. Young says that this team’s success is relatively easy to explain.

“We have good players who really enjoy playing together,” Young says. “That, and a schedule that has been good for the team.”

The schedule that Young is referencing is one that included a series of games against marquee opponents to start the season. The Terriers started the season in California playing against Stanford. The winter also included trips to West Virginia and Duke – both teams ranked in the AP top 20.

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The signature win of the preseason came when the Terriers traveled to Raleigh to take on N.C. State, an ACC program. The Terriers won the game 55 to 54 and shut N.C. State down for just 21 points in the second half. The loss was N.C. State’s first loss at Historic Reynolds Coliseum, a former home court which the Wolpack had won 14 times with zero loses in previous returns since 1999.

The win over NC State brought national attention to the Wofford program with ESPN writer Joe Lunardi ranking Wofford as high as a 12 seed on his weekly projected NCAA tournament bracket. Young says that emerging from these tough tests at the beginning of the year was helpful for the team and their long-term ambitions.

“There is no better proving ground than those places we played to start the year,” Young says. “Going through that really prepares your team for conference play.”

Despite this competitive nonconference slate, the Terriers had a relatively slow start to conference play. Over the first four conference games the Terriers had multiple scares including a three-point win at Samford and a five-point win at home against VMI. Perhaps the greatest scare of the early conference season came at Chattanooga. The Terriers trailed by 10 points at halftime, and Karl Cochran hadn’t connected on any of his three point attempts in the first half. In the second half, Cochran exploded for 27 points and hit all six of his three point attempts including two in the final minute of the game.

“In 26 years of coaching I hadn’t seen an offensive performance like that,” Young says. “In the first half we were on our heels. We made a last ditch effort. [Cochran] hit the shot, and I said, ‘Alright, let’s load him up.’”

From there on, Cochran didn’t miss, and the Terriers escaped Chattanooga with a four-point win.

After those close calls in the beginning of the Southern Conference season, the Terriers finally dropped a game at The Citadel. In a game they led by as many as 16 points, Wofford ultimately lost by three. It appears that the loss may have been a turning point in the season. In the four wins before The Citadel game, the average margin of victory for Wofford was 5.5 points; in the five wins since The Citadel game, the Terriers have won by an average margin of 14.2 points.

Cochran is one of three 1,000 point scorers on this year’s team along with senior forward Lee Skinner and junior wing Spencer Collins.

“It’s such a luxury to have those options,” Young says. “A good defense might be able to shut down just Cochran, or maybe a special defense could take two of the three out, but it’s hard to stop all three.”

Those players, along with Justin Gordon, Eric Garcia, Lee Skinner and a talented bench, give the Terriers a series of options every game.

All of these factors have led the Terriers to their best start in conference history, and an undefeated record at home in the Benjamin Johnson arena.

“I am having as good a time as I’ve ever had out there with this team,” Young says.

3rd Place Series of Articles winner in the SCPA 2015 Collegiate News Contest.
3rd Place Sports Story winner in the SCPA 2015 Collegiate News Contest.

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