By LARRY VAUGHT
During the regular season Wofford played North Carolina, Kansas and Mississippi State — and lost to all three teams. Saturday afternoon the Terriers got a chance to play another one of nation’s elite teams — Kentucky.
Kentucky demolished Abilene Christian in Thursday’s NCAA Tournament opener while Wofford pulled away in the final four minutes to eliminate Seton Hall, a team that beat UK in December.
“We’ve definitely watched Kentucky. They’re on TV all the time. They’re a very talented team. They’ve got a lot of guys that can score the ball,” Wofford’s Cameron Jackson said. “They’re very athletic. So it’s going to be a tough game. But we’re welcoming the challenge.”
Wofford coach Mike Young was not surprised with the way his team responded Thursday after blowing a big lead against Seton Hall in the second half.
“We haven’t had a lot of close games. But I think back to Greensboro, Sanford down six with 50 seconds to play. They never have that look about them like we’ve got a problem. Seton Hall takes a stab at us, take the lead, was never an air of panic, never an air of, oh, my God, we’ve got a problem. Next possession, next best action. Figure it out. And they’ve done it time and time and time again,” Young said.
“So comforting as a coach to be able to just manage the team. You’re not trying to encourage them. You’re not trying to lift their spirits. You’re coaching the team, what’s next, what are we looking at. That’s a big deal.”
Beating Seton Hall gave Wofford it’s first NCAA win, something that Nathan Hoover said meant a lot to the players.
“But we know we can’t get caught up in the moment. We can enjoy it right now, but we know we have a lot of preparation to do and we’re going to have a very tough game,” Hoover said after the win. “We know we came here to win and we came here to make it as far as we can, so we’re just going to get ready for Saturday.”
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said Wofford is a legitimate NCAA team with plenty of talent.
“ I just think that’s a heck of a basketball team we played. When you have a senior-laden team like they do, who’s extremely well-coached, you’re going to have to play really good to beat them. And we just turned the ball over in the first half. That really kind of put us behind the 8-ball and gave them too many opportunities,” Willard said.
“I mean, they’re going to make shots. They just are. My biggest fear came true, was that Jackson was going to take over the game, and I thought the biggest difference in the game was obviously, A, we turned the ball over. But B, early in the game, he settled them down. He got them going, and that was my biggest fear going into this game was that he’s a guy that doesn’t get talked a whole lot about, but he’s a guy … he kind of got them going and made some big buckets, got an and-one, and I really thought he was the difference in the game, believe it or not.
“They made some 3’s during their run, but we were shot. But he was the difference in the first half, and I thought he was really a difference in the game.”