Wofford tops W. Carolina 56-53 for SoCon title

Mar. 11, 2014 @ 12:07 AM

Karl Cochran scored 23 points, and Wofford beat Western Carolina 56-53 on Monday night to capture the Southern Conference championship and a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Cochran, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, was 8 of 16 from the field and had five 3-pointers. He made two big free throws with 5.3 seconds left to give Wofford a three-point lead.

The Catamounts, which never led, had a chance to send the game to overtime but Trey Sumler's 3-pointer rimmed out as time expired.

Lee Skinner had 11 points for the third-seeded Terriers (20-12), who will be making their third trip to the NCAA tournament in the last five years, but first since 2011.

Fifth-seeded Western Carolina (19-15) had another impressive comeback, but was unable to get the win this time. Brandon Boggs had 17 points, and Tawaski King added 10 points and nine rebounds.

The Catamounts made just 5 of 23 shots in the first half and trailed 27-20 at the break. James Sinclair then had a pair of jump shots in a 7-0 run to begin the second half.

It looked as if Western Carolina had the momentum at that point, but it couldn't grab the lead.

Instead, Wofford put together a 17-6 run to take its largest lead at 44-33 with 8:33 left. Cochran, a junior guard, had eight points during that key stretch.

Western Carolina rallied from nine points down to beat fourth-seeded Elon and overcame a 15-point deficit in the semifinals against top-seeded Davidson. Boggs tried to lead the Catamounts on one last comeback.

He scored on three straight possessions and King had a dunk to help trim Wofford's lead to 46-43 with 4:04 left.

Cochran and Sumler exchanged 3-pointers, and Skinner and King each scored to leave Wofford in front 53-50 with 35 seconds remaining.

Western Carolina quickly fouled four times to put the Terriers into the bonus.

The strategy seemed to work when Spencer Collins missed the front end of a 1-and-1. But Skinner grabbed the rebound off the miss and was fouled. He made one of two free throws to make it a two-possession game with 28 seconds left.

The Catamounts failed to convert on their next possession and sent Skinner to the line again. This time he missed the front end and Boggs drilled a 3 from the left wing to make it 54-53 with 6.3 seconds left.

The Catamounts fouled Cochran on the ensuing inbounds pass and he calmly knocked down both free throws with 5.3 seconds left.

Sumler was guarded well on the final shot, but worked his way free to get an open look and his 20-footer hit the rim and bounced away.