Sunday, December 21, 2014

Tough test against West Virginia looms before Young's record-setting Terriers

In 2005, the Terriers were stifled not once, but twice on a trip to Morgantown, W.Va.

First, Rich Rodriguez's Mountaineers disposed of the visitors from Spartanburg on the gridiron, taking a 35-0 shutout victory in the football season opener. Then, it was the basketball squad's turn to face off against a John Beilein-led squad that would eventually make it to the NCAA Tournament's "Elite Eight," where Texas knocked them out of contention with a three-point triumph.

But in just the second contest of the season, things were looking a bit doubtful for West Virginia, a team fresh off a season-opening rout of Louisiana-Monroe. A Wofford outfit, which had played the Mountaineers tough in the second-ever meeting between the programs in 2002, a ten-point WVU triumph, had the upper hand early and secured a 24-19 advantage at halftime.

Things didn't end well that day, as the Mountaineers pulled away in the second half and posted a 61-41 victory. However, that game marked the last time these two teams had met on the hardwood. And now, nearly ten years later, the WVU Coliseum will host a very different Terrier squad.

One thing, though, will be the same on Monday as it was in 2005: the man at the helm for one of the smallest Division I programs in the nation, Mike Young, who is just two wins away from a career mark of 200.

His Terriers are in the midst of a four-game winning streak and a historic 9-2 start, the best for the Spartanburg school since joining the top tier of collegiate basketball in the 1990s. The excitement that stemmed from a 55-54 edging of ACC member N.C. State -- the first such win since the 1934 season opener -- quickly faded, as Wofford was caught in a stressful fight with the Big South's Charleston Southern, a program that started off the season with an upset of Ole Miss.

Led by a fifteen-point charge from Eric Garcia and an impressive eight boards for Karl Cochran, the Terriers overcame a one-point deficit at the half to outscore the Buccaneers 37-32 in the second half and secure a hard-fought 64-58 victory.

Now, possibly the toughest challenge for this defending-SoCon champion squad still looms ahead, as the nationally-ranked Mountaineers aim to dispel the hype surrounding the N.C. State win and improve to an 11-1 record. Fresh off of an 83-69 dispatching of the Wolfpack on Saturday afternoon, West Virginia has only suffered a single setback -- a 74-73 nail-biter at the hands of the LSU Tigers -- this season.

"That's a bunch of wins before the break," Young noted after the win over Charleston Southern. "I don't care where you are, Duke, wherever...Wofford, 9-2 going into West Virginia; I'm proud of our team."

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