RECAP: Big second half propels Wofford past Chattanooga, into semifinals of Southern Conference tournament

Eric Garcia went for 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in Wofford's 79-67 win over Chattanooga in the quarter-finals of the Southern Conference tournament on Saturday afternoon.
Eric Garcia went for 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in Wofford’s 79-67 win over Chattanooga in the quarter-finals of the Southern Conference tournament on Saturday afternoon.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — College basketball is a game of two halves. On Saturday afternoon, the Wofford Terriers proved that to be true.

In their quarter-finals match-up with the Chattanooga Mocs in the Southern Conference tournament in Asheville, N.C., the Terriers broke free in the second half, coming away with a 12-point victory over the Mocs, 79-67.

Both teams limped into the post-season, of sorts. Wofford fell in their regular season finale to the Furman Paladins. But, they had won their previous two contest.

The Mocs, on the other hand, struggled mightily at the end of conference play. Riddled by injuries to key players down the stretch, Chattanooga came into the conference tournament riding a four-game losing streak. 

Following the regular season finale, the Mocs and Terriers were tied for fourth spot in the standings with identical 10-8 records against conference foes. The two teams had met twice in the regular season, with the Mocs completing the season sweep.

Wofford was hoping that the third meeting would be the charm, and after a tight first half, they pulled away in the second for the double-digit victory.

Out of the gate, the Terriers scored the first four points of the game, putting the momentum behind themselves early. While Chattanooga would tie the game shortly thereafter, the Terriers wouldn’t trail the entire first half.

With 2:23 to play in the opening frame, freshman Nathan Hoover hit a jumper to give the Terriers a 31-28 lead as halftime approached. With three ticks left on the clock, Johnathan Burroughs-Cook hit a three for the Mocs to knot the game up at 31-all heading into the break.

Sparked by five points from Eric Garcia, Wofford opened the second half on a 7-0 run to take a 38-31 lead. They pushed their lead to 10 points before the first media timeout, thanks to a three point jumper from Hoover.

Chattanooga managed to cut the deficit down to four points before the halfway point of the second. A dunk from Makinde London got the Mocs to within 53-49, but that was as close as they would get the rest of the way.

The lead for Wofford ballooned to as many as 15 points late in the second half, and they cruised to the 79-67 victory over the Mocs.

In terms of conference seeding in the post-season, some would look at this and consider it a minor upset, given the fact that Chattanooga was the fourth seed and Wofford was seeded fifth. However, with how both teams had been playing down the stretch, a win by Wofford shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Sophomore guard Fletcher Magee led the way for Wofford, scoring a game-high 24 points, on 7-of-16 shooting from the floor. Eric Garcia put together a solid performance on both ends of the floor, finishing with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals.

Tre McLean flirted with a triple-double for Chattanooga, finishing with 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists. Makinde London came off the bench to chip in with 11 points.

With the win, the Wofford Terriers will take on the top-seeded UNC Greensboro Spartans in the first semifinal match-up tomorrow afternoon.

For Chattanooga, they will now wait and see if they receive an invitation to take part in either the CBI or CIT at year’s end.

– T. Bennett