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UNC Basketball vs. Wofford: A recent history

Two early season games with very different results.

NCAA Basketball: Wofford at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the Wofford Terriers coming to town on Sunday to tangle with the Tar Heels in Carmichael Auditorium(!!!), let’s take a look at the Terriers’ recent history with UNC and which familiar faces will be returning from the previous matchups.

December 20th, 2017 - Wofford Upsets #5 UNC 79-75

NCAA Basketball: Wofford at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It was a 25.5-point betting line. And why not? Fifth-ranked UNC were the defending champions, had won 23 straight at home, and had returning stars Joel Berry II, Theo Pinson, and Luke Maye. Not only that, Cameron Johnson was due to make his Chapel Hill debut after a neck injury had kept him out at the start of the season. What chance did little Wofford have?

But the Terriers used an 8-0 run at the end of the first half to take a 34-33 lead into the locker room following an anemic offensive performance by the Heels, especially from Luke Maye, whose shot was off all game. Usually a poor end to the half will earn a proper tongue-lashing from Roy Williams and a stronger effort in the second half.

Tongue-lashing or no, things only got worse after the break: Wofford hit 10 of their first 15 shots in the second interval and built a 14-point lead before a stunned Dean Dome. UNC made a strong push late, having four different opportunities to tie the game in the last six minutes, but all their attempts went begging. Wofford ultimately salted the game away at the line with four free throws in the last fifteen seconds and prevailed 79-75.

The worst part was that they hadn’t done anything particularly spectacular to pull off the shocker: Shooting star Fletcher Magee finished with 27 points but they came on 10-23 shooting (4-12 from beyond the arc) and the Terriers went just 7-22 from three as a team. More impressive was the performance of Cameron Jackson, who had 18 points, nine rebounds, and six blocks, having his way with UNC’s vulnerable front line. Joel Berry led the Heels with 23 points, but got little help from the rest of the squad.

Following the game, Roy opined that “We’ve got to by God be ready to play and not act like we’re prima donnas who can put on the Carolina jersey and the other team is going to fold.”

November 6th, 2018 - UNC Takes Revenge, 78-67

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Wofford Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

In what Wofford head coach Mike Young called “the biggest basketball game in Spartanburg history,” UNC overpowered the Terriers to open the 2018-19 season. Luke Maye, who had struggled in the first matchup, had a terrific game, especially in the second half, finishing with 24 points on 13 shots to go with seven rebounds and four assists. Garrison Brooks had his best game as a Tar Heel to that point, tallying a then-career high 20 points. Cam Johnson, who said losing his UNC debut the year before had “made (him) sick,” nailed five three pointers and finished with 17 points.

In a reversal from the previous season, Fletcher Magee struggled from the field, hounded all night by defensive pressure from Kenny Williams. He missed his first seven shots, ultimately going 7-23 from the floor and a putrid 3-16 from three point range. Wofford as a whole went 9-35 from deep and Cameron Jackson, a menace on the interior the year before, had a much less effective game and Maye and Brooks.

The 2019-20 Terriers

Opening loss notwithstanding, last year’s Wofford squad had a fantastic season, finishing the Southern Conference a perfect 16-0 and finishing the regular season by appearing in the AP Top 25 for the first time in program history. They were awarded the #7 seed in the Midwest and ultimately bowed out to Kentucky in the second round.

Since then, Magee and Jackson have been lost to graduation and the Terriers have struggled to replicate their success, going 5-4. Senior Nathan Hoover was expected to become the new primary shooter but he has been woeful from the field through nine games, shooting 34% overall and 27% from deep. Junior guard Storm Murphy however has been extremely efficient, going for 58% from the field and 55% from three. Chevez Goodwin, a junior forward, has been asked to fill the shoes of the departed Jackson and he has become the team’s primary interior defender, though his offensive game is not as polished.

UNC should have the advantage, of course, but if recent series history (and this season’s struggles) have taught us anything, it’s that nothing is certain.