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Game Preview: Wofford Hosts Maryland-Eastern Shore Saturday

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Coaches: Mike Young (217-194, 14th yr); Bobby Collins (18-17/2nd Yr at UMES)
Last Time They Met: First-Ever Meeting Between The Two
Series: First Meeting
Player To Watch (Wofford): G--Spencer Collins
Player To Watch (Maryland Eastern Shore): G--David Martin
Records: Wofford (0-2); Maryland Eastern (0-2)

Fresh off a good showing at top-ranked North Carolina mid-week, two-time reigning Southern Conference champion Wofford returns to the floor Saturday in search of its first win of the season, as the Terriers face off against Maryland Eastern-Shore in a battle of teams looking for their first wins of the season.

The Terriers have not taken any shortcuts to a win with their first two games of the season. While most programs have gone out and scheduled at least one win in the first week of the season, Mike Young's Terriers have gone and faced a team from the SEC, in Missouri, and a team from the ACC, which also just happens to be the top-ranked team in college basketball--the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Saturday's contest marks the first time the Wofford Terriers have suited up for a real game inside the friendly confines of Benjamin-Johnson Arena since Feb. 21 of last season, when the Terriers posted a Senior Night win over The Citadel on Feb. 21, which was part of a season that saw the Terriers complete the season with a near-flawless 13-1 home record.

The Terriers are 18-2 in home openers since joining the NCAA Division I ranks back in 1995-96. The Terriers have established a great tradition since joining the Southern Conference, and four championships over the past six seasons speak to that tradition.

Saturday, the Terriers will tangle with Maryland Eastern Shore for the first time in the history of Wofford's program. The Terriers will be hungry for a win, posting a pair of good showings in road losses at Missouri (83-74) and at top-ranked North Carolina (78-58).

Maryland Eastern-Shore opened the season with a pair of games against Missouri (L, 73-55) and Kansas State (L, 80-53), which also part of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. Wofford's game with Maryland Eastern-Shore is the third of four games to start the season as a part of the CBE Hall-of-Fame Classic, while the Hawks will face Fairfield in its final game of four start the season in the same tournament.

A Look at the Terriers:
When Wofford takes the floor on Saturday, it will look a little different than the team most Terrier fans saw suit up in that senior night game last February. The biggest difference will be the fact that it will be the first Wofford team to have taken the floor without either Karl Cochran or Lee Skinner in four years. That would cause for some to fear, while others know that Wofford basketball has never been about one or two players, but it's been about an environment that has made success not only possible, it has made it a reality.

Great players have been present throughout Mike Young's tenure, and prior to that, Richard Johnson, as the Terriers have always churned out talented, memorable players. Those names roll off the tongue from the past; Players like Lee Nixon, Colon Largent, Mike Lenzly, Rashawn DeLoach, Seth and Ian Chadwick, and Two Morton are just a sampling of some of the greats that have helped build Wofford's solid winning foundation.

Success hasn't come easy, and there have been a lot of times when it must have seemed that this small private school in the Upstate of South Carolina would never quite reach that level. Then came the breakthrough season of 2009-10, which would forever change the fortunes of Wofford basketball, as the Terriers broke through and won the first of four Southern Conference Tournament titles.
Young's rise to success has been tougher than most. In fact, there was a time I can remember when some even had the audacity to question whether the Commonwealth of Virginia native had what it took to lead the Terrier program. Needless to say, he has proven his harshest critics wrong and is now stringing together successful season upon successful season.

Five of the past six seasons have seen the Terriers reach the 20-win marker, and the Terriers, though with a few new faces this season, appear to be intent on achieving that high order of success again this season. Below are listed the players to watch for the Terriers in Saturday's opener.

The biggest key to Wofford's success over the past six years has been its play defensively, with the Terriers routinely ranking among the top teams in the SoCon in field goal percentage defense and scoring defense. This season, the Terriers rank rank seventh and ninth in the SoCon in field goal percentage and scoring defense, but expect that to be the exception rather than the norm this season.

One of the things Young appears to be doing is taking a page out of legendary Davidson head coach Bob McKillop's playbook by playing a tough non-conference schedule, getting his younger players used to the rigors of Southern Conference play. No doubt the games against North Carolina and Missouri to open the season will end up helping the Terriers down the road this season.

G--Eric Garcia (11.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.0 APG)-- He's the point guard that makes the well-oiled Wofford machine go. In past successful seasons under Young, the Terriers have gotten great point guard play. Folks won't soon forget Brad Loesing and what he meant to Terrier basketball, and Garcia is certainly in that same ilk of point guard. So far this season, Garcia has posted 14 and eight points in games against Missouri and North Carolina.

In now his third season as the Terrier point guard, he has started 58 of the 65 games he has seen action in for the old gold and black. Garcia is known for making good decisions with the basketball, as well as stepping up and making clutch shots for the Terriers, as he did in Wofford's back-to-back SoCon title runs over his first two seasons.

He has been a reliable perimeter threat in his career, including going 5-for-13 from downtown this season, and is a 40.8% shooter from downtown in his career (80-for-196). He has an outstanding assist/turnover ratio in his career, having dished out 164 assists for his career, while only turning the ball over 71 times. That as much as anything has been a key to Wofford's success.

G--Spencer Collins (10.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.0 APG)--Without question, Easley, S.C., native Spencer Collins is Mike Young's unquestioned leader this season, and if Wofford is going to find its way to another championship this season, you can rest assured that Collins will have plenty do with that.

Collins opened the season with a 10-point effort in the loss at Missouri and followed that up with 11 points in the loss at UNC on Wednesday night. Collins has continued his strong play, which started over the final stretch last season, including averaging 16 PPG in the Southern Conference Tournament and a career-high 26 points in a SoCon title clinching win at Mercer last season, and coming with his two double-figure efforts to open the season, has posted double-figure scoring performances in nine out of the past 10 games.

Collins is a preseason All-Southern Conference selection, and the normally proficient perimeter shooter has struggled this season, connecting on a meager 2-of-12 shots from downtown so far this season. Overall, things haven't been much better in terms of shooting the basketball for Collins, who is just 6-for-23 in his first two games of his senior season for the Terriers.

His versatility as a ball-handler and ability to create his own shot off the dribble is why I think he is one of the top five players in the Southern Conference. As important as it Collins as a scorer for Wofford, it's the other areas in which he contributes that makes him one of the top five players in the SoCon. He comes into Saturday's home opener with 129 career assists, 68 career steals, and 15 career blocks. He came into the season as Wofford's leading returning scorer, averaging 11.8 PPG last season.

G--Jaylen Allen (9.0 PPG, 40% 3pt FG%)--Johnson City, TN native Jaylen Allen is the other wing that will join Collins in the starting five at the other wing guard. Allen might well be one of the best perimeter shooters in the Southern Conference, and comes into the home opener for the Terriers having already hit four triples this season, with all four of those coming the last time out against the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.

Allen was one off his career-high of 16 points in the loss to North Carolina, and with his four triples against the Tar Heels, upped his career total to 72 triples. Allen is in his first season as a full-time starter for the Terriers, having started only six out of his previous 68 games in his previous two campaigns with the Wofford basketball program.

Now a junior, I stated that if Allen could step up and be that second or third scorer for the Terriers this season, joining Collins and probably Justin Gordon, the Terriers will have a very legitimate chance to three-peat as the SoCon champs.

Allen gave us a preview of what he could do in the Terriers' NCAA Tournament loss to Arkansas, posting 12 points off the bench in the on 4-of-7 from three-point range in the loss. Allen has been given the unenviable task of replacing Cochran in the starting lineup for Wofford. He was really effective off the bench last season, posting 6.3 PPG off the bench, averaging about 17 minutes off the bench.

F--Justin Gordon (15.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG)-- Justin Gordon might be the most explosive athlete in the Southern Conference, and with that athleticism, can change a game on both ends of the floor, as a shot-blocker on defense, while being a menace on the offensive glass.

Gordon has been sensational out of the gate this season, posting 19 points, six boards and two assists in the opener against Missouri, and followed that up with 12 points, four boards and a pair steals in the most recent outing at North Carolina.

Speaking to Gordon's tremendous athleticism, he had 21 dunks last season, with 11 of those jams came in the first 11 games. If you get a chance to Wofford play this season as a casual fan, you will love Gordon's high-wire act, and he is good for at least one momentum play per outing. What I mean by momentum play is either a dunk or an emphatic block.

Last season, which was Gordon's first as a full-time starter, he had his best season as a shot-blocking presence, swatting away 17 shots last season.

The biggest improvement the undersized 6-5 forward has made to his game in now his senior season is his ability to step out and hit the three. He is currently 2-for-2 this season, and made a concerted effort to improve his offensive game during the off-season and his perimeter shooting to make him an even more versatile scoring threat.

He is coming off a season which saw him average 7.5 PPG and 4.0 RPG. With 21 dunks last season, it comes as no surprise that Gordon ranked among the SoCon's top leaders in field goal percentage, hitting on 54.7% of his shots from the field last season.

F--C.J. Neumann (1.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG)--The biggest key in the paint for Wofford will be 6-7 C.J. Neumann, and he will play the five position for the Terriers. Neumann is not going to be relied upon as a scorer, but he is going to be asked to be a menace on the offensive glass, just as he was in the championship game last season against Furman.

Neumann reminds me of a guy that played at Purdue in the mid-late 1990s by the name of Bryan Cardinal. Cardinal was not known for his scoring ability, but he was a scrapper. He did anything to help the Boilermakers get the win, and it included diving after loose balls, getting rebounds on both ends, and other hustle stats that don't necessarily show up on the stats sheet, but do equate when it comes to winning basketball games.

Neumann is that kind of player, and for anyone who watched his performance in last year's SoCon title game, you know that on Eric Garcia's late three-pointer which proved to be the ultimate dagger into the Paladins' title hopes, you know that it was Neumann that kept the ball alive by continuing to battle and the ball eventually found its way back out to Garcia following Neumann's battle to keep it alive and offensive rebound, and he connected on the huge three to provide the huge play in the waning minutes of the basketball game.

Though not known as a scorer, it is what Neumann provides in other areas that once again makes him vital to the Terriers' success this season. He saw 31 minutes in the opener against Mizzou and logged 34 minutes the last time out against North Carolina.

Keep An Eye On: Fletcher Magee for Wofford. The freshman guard has been sensational through the first two games, especially in the season opener against Missouri.

The story of the opener was the play of Magee, who was sensational for the Terriers pouring in 22 points in the nine-point road loss at Mizzou. Magee is a 6-4, sharp-shooting guard from Orlando, FL, and he will remind Terrier fans of former Terrier great shooters, such as the Chadwick brothers--Seth and Ian--or Junior Salters.

Five of his six field goals in the opening-season loss to the Tigers came from three-point range, as he finished 5-for-9 from three-point land in the contest. With some irony, Magee provided himself with his own Birthday present, as the Friday the 13th season opener also fell on his 19th Birthday.

The next time out against North Carolina, Magee followed his opening game performance up with another double-digit effort by Magee, as he posted 10 points in the road loss.

A Quick Look At The Hawks:

UMES, which is a member of the MEAC, came into the 2015-16 season off of a memorable season, which saw the Hawks post their most wins since the 1973-74, as Bobby Collins led the Hawks to an 18-15 record in his first season as the head coach, garnering MEAC Coach of the Year accolades. It was the first time the Hawks finished above .500 since the 1993-94 campaign.

UMES also had the MEAC's Rookie of the Year last season, as sophomore guard Ryan Andino (5.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG) won the award, marking the first-ever Hawks player in MEAC history to claim the award.

The Hawks had to replace three starters from a year ago, including forward Mike Myers who was one of the best in mid-major college basketball. Myers averaged 15.7 PPG and 7.0 RPG last season. The leading returnee for the Hawks is 6-4 sharp-shooting guard David Martin (15.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG ), while the other returning starter for the Hawks is 6-8 Dominique Elliott (4.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG) in the paint.

UMES was the No. 4 preseason pick by the MEAC coaches in the 13-team league. The Hawks have losses to Big 12 member Kansas State (L, 80-53) in the opener and most recently to Missouri (L, 73-55) last Sunday. The Hawks haven't hit the court since last Sunday.

Did You Know:
UMES head coach Bobby Collins was an assistant at Hampton in 2001 when the 15th-seeded Pirates upset second-seeded Iowa State, which was led by future NBA stars Marcus Fizer and Jamal Tinsley, in the 2001 NCAA Tournament.

In 2002, he was promoted to head coach at Hampton a year after that big win, leading the Pirates to an NCAA Tournament berth as the head coach in 2006.

One of Collins' assistant coaches is former Virginia Tech Ace Custis, who was an outstanding guard for the Hokies. One of Wofford head coach Mike Young's first big wins of his career came against Custis' alma mater. The state of Virginia is also the state which Young calls home, having been born in Radford, VA.

Who Wins:

Wofford 77, UMES 62