SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Senior Storm Murphy poured in a game-high 25 points, though, the UNCG Spartans (6-4, 1-1 SoCon) would come alive in the second half, shooting 56.3 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from long distance (6-14) in the frame to come away with a 84-75 victory at the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium on Wednesday night. The loss drops Wofford to 5-4 overall and 2-1 in the Southern Conference.
“There were some really untimely turnovers where we got sloppy and a little soft out there, which we’re not usually like that,” said head coach Jay McAuley of UNCG’s defensive pressure. “They hit us in the mouth after those first four minutes of the second half.”
“We could’ve really made a big charge in the first half,” added McAuley. “We were playing well. We were playing sharp. We just had a couple of bone-headed turnovers that fueled them and kept them in the game.”
Wofford finished the contest 43.6 percent from the floor (24-55) and connected on 10-of-31 from 3-point range on the night (32.3%).
The Spartans outscored Wofford, 49-32, in the second half, going on to finish 46.9 percent from the floor (30-64) and hit a season-high 11 3-pointers at a 40.7-percent clip on the night (11-27).
“We got the first three stops of the half. After that, we were up eight or 10 and just really weren’t ourselves the rest of the half,” added McAuley of the Terriers’ second-half performance. “We’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got a lot to learn and improve on, but that’s a tough ball club right there. They win a lot of games for a reason.”
Murphy added his third 20-point performance of the season, connecting on 8-of-12 shots from the floor (66.7%) while matching a career-high five threes for the second consecutive game (5-8). Additionally, the senior added four assists and four rebounds in a team-high 35 minutes.
Sophomore Messiah Jones rounds out the double-figure scorers for Wofford with 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Jones’ presence in the paint was felt on the defensive end throughout the contest prior to being sidelined in the second half with an injury, as the Chicago, Ill. native notched a career-high four blocks in 24 minutes on the night.
Freshmen Max Klesmit and Morgan Safford both added nine points apiece, seeing Safford knock down 3-of-7 from downtown (42.9%), while Klesmit added three rebounds and two steals. Junior Ryan Larson recorded seven points, hitting 4-for-4 from the line, four rebounds, two assists and a steal, while sophomore B.J. Mack finished with six points, two rebounds and an assist.
UNCG came out spirited to start before a 10-0 run on a Klesmit layup, followed by back-to-back treys from Murphy and Larson, and Sam Godwin finish gave Wofford its first lead, 12-6, four minutes into play. Safford then nailed a three, as the Terriers used balance scoring from Klesmit, Larson, Keaton Turner and Murphy to score nine of the next 14 points, holding a 24-15 lead just under the midway point.
An UNCG 9-0 run then knotted the score up at 24-24 prior to Storm Murphy answering with his third 3-pointer of the half, as free throws from Murphy and Klesmit on a 3-point attempt rekindled an eight-point cushion (34-26). Larson would go on to find Messiah Jones for a slam, followed by a Jones block on the ensuing defensive possession, as Safford then gave Wofford its largest lead at the half with 1:33 left on a 3-pointer, 41-30, before the teams would trade baskets to end the opening frame, 43-35.
The Terriers were sharp from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, shooting 53.8 percent (14-28) with six made threes and 9-for-10 makes from the charity stripe. UNCG hit 5-of-13 from deep (38.5%), while receiving nine points off 10 Wofford turnovers and 6-of-8 makes from the line to keep the margin at single digits.
Murphy opened the second frame with another three, though, UNCG built momentum on a pair of threes from Keyshaun Langley to come within one point, 45-44. Tray Hollowell then buried his lone field goal of the night on a three, as a Messiah Jones finish extended the spread back to six points (50-44).
The Spartans continued to chip away, managing to tie the score at 51-51 by the 13:41 mark, before a barrage of UNCG scores from several different Spartans allowed a 10-point lead with 8:58 to play, 68-58.
The Terriers continued to battle, seeing another Safford three-ball, along with scores from B.J. Mack and Storm Murphy to keep the score in arm’s reach (73-67). However, UNCG’s Isaiah Miller, who scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, continued to find the answer for the Spartans, along with timely makes from UNCG’s Angelo Allegri, to control the momentum and corral a double-digit lead with 1:25 left, 80-69.
The Terriers frenzied to make a last-minute comeback, using a full-court press to find quick steals, though, UNCG would ultimately maintain the advantage at the free throw line to come up with its first conference win, 84-75.
Wofford and UNCG finished even on the boards with 36 each, while the Spartans capitalized on points from turnovers (18), second chance points (25) and outscored Wofford’s bench, 27-19.
UNCG was led by junior Angelo Allegri with 19 points, on 4-of-8 shooting from deep (50%), followed by Isaiah Miller, who was named Preseason SoCon Player of the Year, with a double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds.
The Terriers (5-4, 2-1 SoCon) are currently scheduled to play next on Wednesday, Jan. 13, when they travel to Lexington, Va. for a 7 p.m. matchup with the VMI Keydets.