Wofford Comes Close at Vandy; Defeats Coastal
For the 2nd time in the last 2 weeks, the Wofford Terriers took to the road for a battle with an opponent from the SEC. If that isn’t deja vu enough for you, the result was almost exactly the same.
They took on the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, and found themselves on the short end of a teeter game in which the Terriers had a shot in the final seconds, falling 65-62 to drop to 5-4 on the season in Jay McAuley’s 100th career game as head coach at Wofford.
As has been the trend most of the season, the Terriers found themselves down early, as Vandy took the lead on a layup within the first :30 of the game. The Commodores started out shooting nearly 50%, going on a 10-5 run heading into the first media timeout, and they did not look back in the first half.
Wofford pulled to within 2 when Carson McCorkle drained a 3 with about 16 minutes left in the first stanza. But, Vandy responded with an 11-7 run heading into the under 12 timeout. They extended it to a 16-7 run to give them what would be their largest lead of the game at 11 points before the Terriers snapped a nearly 5:00 scoreless streak on a Messiah Jones layup with just under 9:00 to play.
That about summarizes the best action of the half. Over the final 3:00, there were a combined 4 turnovers between the 2 teams and neither could capitalize. Both squads went cold as ice during that time frame, shooting a combined 0 for 7 and leading to a 34-25 halftime advantage for Vandy.
The Commodores shot 43.3% in the first half to Wofford’s nearly 35%. The key difference is a recurring theme for the Terriers this season – transition defense, particularly after turnovers. Vandy had 7 points off turnovers in the 1st half, and 5 fast break points
Time and time again this season, Wofford has proven they tend to be a 2nd half team. That was certainly no different here as they came out swinging on both sides of the ball. Messiah Jones completed a 3 point play on the Terriers’ first possession of the half, starting a 6-0 run in which Wofford cut the Vanderbilt lead to 1. The Terriers took their first lead of the night on a Kyler Filewich jumper for 2 before the ‘Dores snapped their scoreless streak with a 3 going into the under 16 timeout. During that run, the Terrier defense forced 2 turnovers, scoring 3 off of them.
Wofford continually kept clawing their way back into the game, taking the lead by one on 3 other occasions and never trailing by more than 5. In the end, the game came down to the final minute, and once again, they simply could not close out the game when they had the opportunity.
Trailing by 3 with :16 to play, Jay McAuley called a timeout to draw up a play to either tie it or at least pull within 1 (sound like the LSU game?). Out of the timeout, the Terrier kept passing the ball around trying to get a look for a shot or a lane to drive. They ran 14 seconds off the clock when BJ Mack was fouled. Mack went 1-2 at the line, making it a 2 point game. They were boxed out on the rebound, making a situation where they had to foul to get the ball back. Vandy went 1-2 to make it a 3 point deficit, and unfortunately, the long inbounds pass from Messiah Jones to Jackson Paveletzke was dropped at the buzzer to end it.
The Terriers had just 2 players score in double digits, and for the first time this season, Jackson Paveletzke was not one of them. BJ Mack led the way with 19 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds.
Messiah Jones ended up fouling out, but tallied 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting, including going 4 for 4 at the freethrow line.
Kyler Filewich tallied 7 points with 5 rebounds. Paveletzke scored just 6 points on 3 for 9 from the field with 5 assists. Corey Tripp also had 6 points, but contributed nicely on defense with 5 steals to go with his 6 rebounds.
Jay McAuley had this to say about what went wrong over the final minutes: “We got into foul trouble and lost trust in each other and stopped doing the things that got us in position to win the game. We have to learn from it. .. We have to do the mentally tough things to close games out and know what we are doing at the most critical times.”
Vs Coastal Carolina
The Terriers returned home to Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium to take on the Chanticleers on Tuesday night. There was an air of uncertainty surrounding this game with the sudden announcement that head coach Jay McAuley would be taking a leave of absence on Monday afternoon. Dwight Perry assumed the helm as the interim, who has been at Wofford for 4 years, and was promoted to assistant head coach prior to the 2021-2022 season.
Perry is well-regarded as one of the top assistants in the Southern Conference, having been part of the league since 2016 when he started out at Furman. He is known for developing guards and for his ability to recruit the midwest and southeast regions. He brought in and developed such recent Wofford legends and current stars as Storm Murphy, Morgan Safford, Max Klesmit, and BJ Mack.
This was not Perry’s first game as acting head coach. Last season, he had to fill in against Samford when McAuley had to go into covid protocols, leading the Terriers to a 87-64 conference win over Samford back in mid January last year. But, with the presumed indefinite leave of absence by Jay McAuley, this will be Perry’s first extended stint of head coaching experience – and it certainly got off to a fun start.
The Terriers were going to be in a dogfight, regardless of the circumstances. The Chanticleers averaged 78 points per game coming in compared to the Terriers’ 77. Both teams were shooting around 47 percent from the field. Both teams were about even from three point range at 35%. The key differences between them were that Coastal is a much better rebounding team and they force more turnovers. The Chants 3 leading scorers, Jomaru Brown, Essam Mustafa, and Linton Brown, all average around 15+ points per game. They are quick, make quick passes to open up lanes, and they seemingly just could not miss from inside the arch in this game.
Coastal set the tone in the first 5 minutes, jumping out to a 12-4 advantage. The Chanticleers used an imposing presence and speed to keep the Terriers from being able to drive the ball inside, forcing them to take a lot of 3 point shots with very little success. Wofford started out 1 for 6 from behind the arch.
The Terriers did not give in despite their struggles, as Kyler Filewich came in off the bench and went 4 for 4 in the paint to help pull back into the game. Wofford used a layup and a pair of free throws from BJ Mack over the final 1:30 to cap a 6-0 run to tie it at the half at 32.
The second half was a much different tale, thanks to a valiant effort from the super talented freshman Jackson Paveletzke. They traded baskets up until the 14 minute mark of the half, when the Terriers took their largest lead of the game up to that point (4) behind a pair of free throws from Paveletzke (who was a perfect 6 for 6 at the line) following the 2nd technical of the game on Coastal.
Coastal once again built back up to an 8 point lead before the Terriers flipped a switch and went on an absolutely dominant run over the last 8 and a half minutes of the game, outscoring the Chants 22-4. In that span, the Terriers outrebounded CCU 14-9 and forced 2 turnovers. Paveletzke went 5 for 6 from the field in that span with 11 points and also went 2-2 from the line.
“Pav” finished the night 6 of 9 shooting with 20 points and 4 rebounds, with 17 of those 20 points coming in the 2nd half.
Bj Mack logged 18 points on 7 of 17 from the field with 6 rebounds.
Carson McCorkle finished 5 of 9 with 12 points and 7 rebounds.
Kyler Filewich, on top of keeping Wofford in the game in the first half, also contributed with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.
With the Terriers now 6-4 on the season, they go back on the road Saturday to Georgia Southern with tipoff set for 3:00 PM. Then they have a week off before hosting NAIA foe Montreat College on December 17th at 2:00 PM.