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Wofford and its trio of seniors have unfinished business

Are the Terriers the best team in SoCon history?

NCAA Basketball: Wofford at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

It was the perfect ending to Senior Night. For Fletcher Magee, Matthew Pegram and Cameron Jackson, it was the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, as Wofford knocked off preseason SoCon title favorite and defending champion UNC Greensboro, 80-50. In the process, the Terriers claimed the regular-season SoCon title and wrapped up the No. 1 overall seed for next month’s Southern Conference Tournament.

But there’s that next chapter. Despite all the success this team has had, there are several goals still ahead, like finishing the SoCon undefeated and completing the potential wire-to-wire season by winning three games in Asheville to lift the SoCon Tournament title trophy. Should the Terriers claim top prize in Asheville, it would mark the fifth time that a Mike Young-led team has lifted a tournament title trophy in the last 10 seasons. Saturday night’s win marked the Terriers’ fourth Southern Conference regular-season title since joining the league as an official member in 1995-96.

The aforementioned trio have been the bedrock of success for head coach Mike Young’s team this season, which has now won 14-straight games and reached impressive heights in a season where the SoCon has seen perhaps its most challenging competition since its inception in 1921.

Sure, Wofford was always going to be good, but few teams have ever navigated through the SoCon unbeaten to this point, even in a season like this. In fact, the last team to go wire-to-wire unbeaten in the league was the 2007-08 Davidson Wildcats, which of course, made an Elite Eight run and were led by Stephen Curry.

Should Wofford complete the regular-season with wins on the road at Furman (Feb. 23), at Chattanooga (Feb. 28) and at Samford (Mar. 2), and then go on to sweep through the Southern Conference Tournament to lift the trophy, an argument could be made for Wofford being the best team in SoCon history—at least in the modern era.

Later this afternoon, the Associated Press will release its Top 25 poll, and many expect to find the Terriers’ name on the latest scroll after such a resounding victory against a quality opponent. The Terriers currently sport hold down the No. 28 spot in the latest NCAA NET rankings released yesterday.

The 30-point win Saturday night at the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium marked the 14th-straight victory for the Terriers, which ranks as the longest winning streak in Wofford basketball history.

In Saturday night’s win over the Spartans, the senior trio of Magee, Jackson and Pegram closed out the their home careers in grand fashion, combining for 42 of Wofford’s 80 points. Magee continued his torrid scoring streak with 26 points, including hitting five of his first seven three-point field goals, staking Wofford to a six-point halftime advantage and scoring 17 or his 26 in the opening half of play.

Jackson added 12 points and Pegram four to complement Magee’s 26, as the trio went out the way they should have in front of the boisterous home crowd. The trio has been a part of 75 wins over a four-year span, and the class came in on the heels of Wofford’s last championship team back in 2014-15, which was led by the likes of electrifying guard Karl Cochran and veteran forward Lee Skinner.

The rivalry

With each win, the road gets tougher. Saturday will offer Wofford’s biggest challenge in league play to this point, and perhaps to its unbeaten conference season. The Terriers, who could very well be ranked by day’s end, will face arch-rival and 22-5 Furman at a sold out Timmons Arena—a place the Terriers have not captured a victory since February 2015.

In the earlier meeting this season, Furman offered Wofford one of its stiffest challenges on its home floor, as the Paladins dropped a 59-54 decision to the Terriers before a sellout crowd at Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium.

The matchup earlier this season featured two players that any mid-major basketball fan would pay to see—Wofford’s Magee and Furman’s Matt Rafferty. Magee scored 22 points and Furman’s Rafferty had 23, as the epic battle went down to the wire in Spartanburg, and wasn’t decided until a game-clinching three-pointer by Storm Murphy with just 18 seconds remaining. Rafferty nearly willed Furman to that road win last month, scoring Furman’s final 11 points of the game.

For Magee, Pegram and Jackson, to go out with a regular-season sweep of Wofford’s biggest rival remains a box unchecked in a season with almost each box checked so far.

NCAA Basketball: Wofford at Kansas
There’s more on the table for Matthew Pegram and the Terriers.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

While the Terriers can’t end any SoCon regular-season title hopes for Furman, it can put an end to a six-game winning streak owned a Paladin team seemingly peaking at the right time. After all, Furman has a pair of double-digit wins themselves over ETSU and UNCG during its six-game winning streak, including a 30-point win over the Bucs at Timmons Arena.

This a rivalry that is an example of a pair of programs that do things the right way, and very similar from the foundation up. Character development and player development are both essential elements for Furman head coach Bob Richey and Wofford’s Young.

Saturday’s meeting between the two programs separated by 30 miles is being called the biggest game in Timmons Arena history. Bigger than when Furman faced South Carolina in the facility’s inaugural season, as well as bigger than playing Jim Herrick’s Georgia team during the 1999-2000 season.

The challenge is real, and although the Terriers have already locked up the SoCon regular-season title, this game takes on huge importance for Wofford. The feeling now is finishing out 18-0 in SoCon regular-season play gives the Terriers a virtual lock for an at-large bid should the Terriers lose in the SoCon title game.

A chance to join rare company

Maybe the biggest portion of unfinished business for the Terriers during this special season is the chance to put itself in rare company, as one of the greatest teams to ever play in the Southern Conference.

That’s saying something when you consider some of those Jerry West-led West Virginia teams, Dick Groat and Stephen Curry-led Davidson teams, John Kresse-led College of Charleston team in 1998-99, and those East Tennessee State teams led by Keith “Mister” Jennings of the late 1980s and early ‘90s, which rose as high as No. 10 in the Associated Press Poll in 1990-91.

Two of the greatest teams I have witnessed in my lifetime in the SoCon were that 2007-08 Davidson team that went to the unbeaten in the SoCon regular-season (20-0), won the league tournament, and advanced all the to the Elite Eight. The other is that 1998-99 College of Charleston team that finished the SoCon regular-season unbeaten (16-0) and went to the Big Dance with a 28-2 record.

Wofford has a chance to do something truly special, and surely the trio of Magee, Jackson and Pegram are well aware of that. A win in the NCAA Tournament would be the league’s first since Davidson back in 2008.

But first things first, as the Terriers have three big tests to close out the season before Asheville. It’s all about one game at a time from now on, and as the spotlight gets brighter on Wofford basketball as the season races towards March, it will be up to this trio to keep focus and keep this team from looking too far ahead at the potential ahead.

After all, in a season like this, great teams always reflect and they never get ahead of themselves.