Despite establishing an energetic substitution pace and leading at halftime, the Wofford Terriers could not hold on against the LSU Tigers on Saturday afternoon, dropping a 91-69 decision in the season opener.
The Terriers opened the game with a flash of déjà-vu, when for the second consecutive year a freshman made a statement debut against an SEC front. In 2015-16, star shooting guard Fletcher Magee began his collegiate career with a surprising 22 points off the bench against Missouri, a sign of strong play to come.
Today, Wofford received a jolt from true freshman Nathan Hoover, who joined Magee and senior point guard Eric Garcia in a 7-for-12 attack from behind the arc in the first half. Hoover, regarded as a sharpshooter out of Arlington High School in Memphis, had 11 first-half points and was 3-for-4 from long distance.
Head coach Mike Young was not at all shy to rotate new faces onto the court, such as Hoover, Dishon Lowery, Justin Tucker and Donovan Theme-Love. Although a bit over-matched defensively, the Terriers locked stride with the Tigers and were able to hang onto a 43-39 lead at the half.
LSU, however, then exploded out of the locker room and made it difficult to catch up. After Garcia was fouled and sunk three free throws within the second half’s first 10 seconds, the Tigers went on a blistering 35-11 run until the under-8 media timeout, and ultimately outscored the visitors 52-26 in the half to seal a comfortable victory.
Duop Reath led the Tigers with 23 points and 14 rebounds, while Aaron Epps scored 17 and had nine boards. The two of them had a combined had a 16-of-23 mark from the field. Antonio Blakeney and Skylar Mays added 10 points each, Wayde Sims dropped 13 off the bench and the Tigers enjoyed an above-.500 shooting percentage in the win.
Hoover led Wofford with 18 points, but, like everyone else in a black jersey, seemed to be muted after halftime. After shooting 53 percent as a team during the game’s first twenty minutes, the Terriers only landed 7 of 33 shots (21 percent) in the second half.
Magee finished with 14 points and Garcia with 13, but the Terriers — albeit more quietly — additionally benefited from the return of a healthy Cameron Jackson, who muscled in 14 points and a squad-high eight rebounds from the low post.
Wofford returns to the court Tuesday evening against NAIA school Allen University, a game which will serve as the Terriers’ final home opener in Benjamin Johnson Arena. LSU, meanwhile, also has a home date next Tuesday against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.