Wofford matched Kentucky blow-for-blow until the clock ran out to show the Wildcats had outlasted the Terriers on Saturday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The 7-seed stayed relevant from 3, at least for a while, although Wofford's Fletcher Magee wasn’t his sharp-shooting self. The Terriers took turns bullying the 2-seed in the paint. But the dam that held back the consequences of Wofford’s many miscues proved just porous enough to allow the Wildcats to squeak through, 62-56.
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Kentucky made a run. Coach John Calipari’s squad held on for another March Madness victory.
Here’s why the Terriers’ run at the Sweet 16 ended and the Wildcats (29-6) moved one step closer to another national title:
Terriers go cold from deep
Whatever well Wofford (30-5) drew the water from that powered its 3-point barrages this season ran dry ahead of this Second Round matchup.
The Southern Conference regular season and tournament champions may have entered their matchup against the Wildcats still glowing from an 84-68 win against Seton Hall that saw them hit 13 of their 28 3s. Magee may have just set the NCAA Division I record for 3s made in a career. But that’s where the magic stopped.
Wofford shot just 29.6 percent on 3s after hitting 41 percent from deep this season. Magee failed to hit one all game. He finished 0-of-12 — meaning the most prolific 3-point shooter to ever play now also owns the record for most 3s attempted in a NCAA tournament game without a make, per ESPN Stats and info. And while early in the second half it looked like Wofford’s ability to establish itself in the paint might open up opportunities on the perimeter, the Terriers were never able to shoot that reality into existence.
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Nathan Hoover ended up leading Wofford and all scorers with 19 points. He went 4-of-5 on 3s. It just wasn’t enough.
Kentucky’s athleticism proved too much
Grit took Wofford far, but not far enough.
Even as the Terriers pressured the Wildcats and drew the ire of Big Blue Nation it was apparent just how steep the hill they were trying to climb was. There was the way Kentucky zipped the ball around in the half court before Nick Richards slammed home an alley-oop to tie game at 11. There was Keldon Johnson’s acrobatic layup to put Kentucky up 16-13. There was that spin Ashton Hagans used to send his Terriers defender to the floor on his way into the paint before Hagans was fouled and went to the line to give Kentucky the lead for the last time, 38-37.
Kentucky doesn’t have the same spontaneity Wofford has on offense. Any number of Terriers can slip around a screen, catch a pass and throw up an off-balanced shot from deep that falls straight through the net. Those buckets just didn’t fall for Wofford and Kentucky took advantage.
The simplest shot in basketball helped the Wildcats earn a trip to the Sweet 16.
Kentucky went 17-of-20 from the free-throw line against Wofford and had six different players make a trip to the stripe at least once. No player attempted more than five. All hit at least one. It’s how the two teams finished with the same amount of shots made, Wofford with five more made 3s, and the Wildcats still with six more points.
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The Terriers only attempted nine free throws all game. They hit six of them.
If the 3s were falling, that wouldn’t have mattered much. No one expected Magee not to hit at least a few. But as one shot after another from various Terriers hit rim or rolled out, the Wildcats drew fouls and made free throw after free throw.