Macon. GA – The Wofford Terriers and Mercer Bears both opened SOCON conference play on Tuesday night. Wofford came into the contest 3-3 while the Mercer Bears sat at 7-1 on the season.
Wofford used a 18-9 run in the last 5:45 to put away Mercer. After being down as much as 16 points in the contest and cutting the lead to four at 60-56 with 5:45 remaining, Mercer didn’t have enough left to finish off their comeback. Wofford won the game 78-65. Deciding factors in the contest were the Wofford defense, which held Mercer to less than 40 percent field goal shooting and Wofford’s second half offensive efficiency, as they shot 58 percent in the half. Wofford built their lead off their ability to attack the offensive glass and finish inside. In the first half, they accumulated 10 offensive rebounds and outscored the Bears 20-12 in the paint. Despite the tallest player in their starting lineup only being 6-6, Wofford still dominated the glass surpassing Mercer 26-18 in total rebounds during the half.
Without a true post presence, Wofford is heavily reliant on their guard and wing play. Their perimeter presence was crucial in their victory as they got huge contributions from Storm Murphy, Tray Hollowell and Ryan Larson. Murphy, who is a preseason All-Southern Conference team member, led the way with 16 points, five rebounds and four assists. Where Murphy did a lot of his damage was in the mid-range, whether it was in isolation situations or coming off screens. He seems comfortable pulling up off the dribble and has an array of moves when doing so, such as side-steps and step-backs. He also is fast off the dribble, which can make him harder to defend due to his ability to pull up or blow by his defender once he starts getting downhill. Murphy also displayed his playmaking ability in the contest, whether that be making the extra pass or driving into the lane and finding one of his bigs for a dump off. His feel for the game is off the charts, especially when he plays with pace, which is a work in progress. When he controls the pace and doesn’t get too sped up, he can be an effective scorer and playmaker.
Hollowell was crucial in the Terriers success as well. He finished the contest with 13 points, three rebounds and four assists. The first element of Hollowell’s game that stood out was his vision. He found teammates off drives or by finding gaping holes in help defense. He also showed his creativity by fooling the defense with no-look passes. What compliments his playmaking is his quickness, where he possesses blow-by ability due to his fast first-step. He used this on numerous occasions to either attack the basket and finish or to find a teammate. Hollowell also showed his ability to knock down the 3, where he finished 3-of-5 on the night.
Lastly, Larson is the type of player a lot of college teams need to be successful. He is a “glue guy” who hustles on both ends, is unselfish offensively and guards on the defensive end. He finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists on the night. He was all over the court tonight whether it was through finding teammates for open shots, finishing plays in transition, drawing charges or attacking the glass. Not to mention ay only 6-1 he pulled down nine rebounds, which indicates the type of motor and tenacity he plays with.
For the Bears, star guard Ross Commings led the way with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists. He also reached a career milestone by surpassing over 1000 career points during the game. Commings went 5-of-8 from 3, hitting these threes in variety of ways, whether it was off the dribble, off the catch, or in off-ball screening action. Commings is an excellent three-point shooter with a quick, high release. He has sound mechanics and shoots the ball with arc and touch. He also showed his ability as a cutter when the defense overplays due to his shooting ability. He does need to improve his ability as a driver and shot creator as he lacks speed and an advanced handle, but Commings is an excellent shooter who should be an all-conference player in the Southern Conference when the season concludes.
Leon Ayers III also had a nice performance for the Bears totaling 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. For this contest to be competitive, Ayers III had to step up due to starting point guard Neftali Alvarez not playing. Alvarez is the primary playmaker for the Bears and averages 13 points and six assists. Furthermore, Ayers showed some flashes of his scoring ability knocking down 3-of-6 from the three-point line and finishing some shots around the basket. For his game to take the next step, he needs to become more efficient from the three-point line, where he only shoots 30 percent on the year.
Wofford (4-3, 1-0) will host Samford next on January 2nd and Mercer (7-2, 0-1) will travel to face Furman on January 2nd.
This article was written by David Hendren, a scout and correspondent for NetScouts Basketball. You can follow us on Facebook, or on twitter.
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