2014 Southern Conference Championship: Wofford Survives Western Carolina Threat with Defense

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Wofford was one of the best defensive teams in the Southern Conference this season. They needed every bit of that skill to hold off Western Carolina, attempting its third charge back in as many days.

Wofford was facing a team that had come back on each of its two opponents over the previous two nights. Western Carolina had taken out Elon, and then taken our Davidson in overtime, so why would they stop fighting against the Terriers?

They wouldn't, so even when the lead ballooned to double digits in the second half, this one was far from over. And the Catamounts showed why.

It all came down to a tough, moving 3-pointer from Trey Sumler, the guy in whose hands you want the ball, and it just clanged away.

Wofford won by three, 56-53, and the Terriers were back dancing for the third time in five seasons, an impressive mark for a team that only got to Division 1 less than 20 years ago. Its reward is likely a trip to Dayton for the First Four, but given the way that the conference tournaments around the country have gone so far, that is anything by a given.

Tonight, it was about the Wofford defense, which was the second best during the conference season, and the best overall when you look at the entire year. They executed to perfection, shutting down one of the best scorers in the conference Monday night.

Sumler went into halftime with just two points, both on free throws, and he had barely cracked the score sheet in terms of shots. He would finish with just nine points, and shoot 3-for-12 from the floor including 1 of 5 from long range.

His teammates attempted to make up for him with Brandon Boggs doing what he did against Davidson, and leading the charge back. He would finish with 17 points and Tawaski King added 10 more inside against the smaller Terriers.

But time after time, when Wofford came within moments of letting things slip away -- and this happened a few times, especially in the final minutes -- someone would come up big.

For the most part, it was Kyle Cochran, who began the game on fire, and seemed to hit the big shot each time the Terriers needed it. He would put together 23 points, including 15 from behind the arc, to go with four steals and four assists.

Lee Skinner added to the fun with 11 points and eight rebounds, and did what he could to close out the paint on the defensive end.

Some of these heroics, including the final defensive stand that Wofford put together, surrounding Sumler with three white jerseys, would not have been need had the Terriers not shot 7-for-15 at the free throw line.

That shooting necessitated a game-saving rebound by Lee Skinner, and some tough defense at the other end to keep the lead.

Only Karl Cochran seemed unphased by all this. He calmly knocked down the final two attempts of the game for Wofford, and put them out of reach by anything by the long-range shot.

Western Carolina's miracles finally ran out. Wofford is dancing again.

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