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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

OPINION: Men’s Basketball just won’t back down
Abigail Taylor, Contributing writer • February 27, 2024

Men’s Basketball Bounced By Mercer In SoCon Quarterfinals

Messiah+Jones+scores+two+of+his+16+points+in+the+SoCon+quarterfinal+against+Mercer.+Jones+and+Storm+Murphy+led+the+Terriers+comeback+bid%2C+but+fell+short+62-61.+Photo+courtesy+of+Mark+Olencki.+
Messiah Jones scores two of his 16 points in the SoCon quarterfinal against Mercer. Jones and Storm Murphy led the Terriers comeback bid, but fell short 62-61. Photo courtesy of Mark Olencki.

Terriers’ comeback from 17-point deficit falls just short

Wofford’s men’s basketball season came to an end as they were ousted in their quarterfinal game by the Mercer Bears 62-61. Trailing by as much as 19 in the game,17 at the half, the second-seeded Terriers mounted a comeback but fell just short to the no. 7 seed Bears. 

A first half that saw the Terriers held to just 23 points gave way to a second-half rally that sparked hope in the Wofford faithful who made the trek to Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville, NC. 

The sparser attendance due to COVID(-19) guidelines did not go unnoticed. A heckle, “he pushes off every time!” caused Citadel forward Hayden Brown to miss a free throw off the front of the rim in the first half of the Bulldogs’ quarterfinal game against the UNCG Spartans.

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“They were the tougher team today, (and) usually when you’re the tougher team you advance in tournament play,” said Head Coach Jay McAuley. “Unfortunately, we didn’t turn on our boosters until the second half.” 

McAuley also bemoaned the defensive errors, especially in the first half, saying, “unfortunately you can’t be down 17 in tournament play and expect to come out on top more times than not.” 

The final play gave Storm Murphy ‘21 the ball with 17 seconds left, but a lack of offensive cohesion failed to provide the Terriers a good look before Morgan Safford put up a final shot attempt as the clock expired. 

Murphy, who was named first team all-SoCon for his regular season efforts, collected second team all-tournament honors for his 21 point, 5 rebound and 3 assist performance in the Terriers’ sole postseason contest. He announced via Twitter on March 13 that he will spend his 5th and final year of eligibility with former Wofford head coach Mike Young at Virginia Tech during the 2021-22 season. 

“I think I will remember most the adversity we went through as a team, and as a program we hit a lot of roadblocks,” Murphy reflected after the game. “First and foremost, as men we learned a lot, learned a lot from Coach McAuley, our staff, from each other…the biggest thing I’ll look back on is the fun I had with this group of guys.It’s special. Great team, great environment.”

With Murphy heading to Virginia Tech, who fell toFlorida in the NCAA tournament in the round of 64,fellow senior Tray Hollowell’s ‘21 decision of where to spend his extra season of eligibility, should he choose to do so, remains to be seen. Murphy and Hollowell led the team in scoring with 17.8 ppg and 11.1 ppg, respectively. 

Regardless of Hollowell’s decision, the Terriers possess a strong core to build around in the coming years. Freshmen Safford and Sam Godwin ‘24 collected SoCon Coaches all-freshman team awards, while Safford and Max Klesmit ‘24 were recognized by the media as all-freshman selections. 

Redshirt sophomore Forward Messiah Jones ‘22 was a staple for the Terriers inside all year, averaging 10.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg in a season where he fought injury, missing four games and being forced to use a walking cane at one point. South Florida transfer B.J. Mack ‘23 and junior guard Ryan Larson ‘22  were also crucial pieces to the Terriers’ ascent to a second place finish in the regular season conference standings.

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