Fletcher Magee broke the Bucs’ hearts Sunday afternoon, putting on a circus-like shooting exhibition as No. 22 Wofford defeated ETSU 81-72 in the semifinals of the Southern Conference basketball tournament Sunday at U.S. Cellular Center.
Magee finished with 26 points, going 6 of 7 from 3-point range.
“Ten years ago, I coached the best 3-point shooter in the history of the SEC in Chris Lofton, and I didn’t really think I’d see a better shooter than that, but I have,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “Fletcher Magee, I don’t really know how you guard him. We were on him and he just made all the shots.”
The Terriers improved to 28-4 and will take on UNC Greensboro in Monday night’s championship game. The winner earns the SoCon’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Wofford, which has won 19 consecutive games and hasn’t lost since Dec. 19, is likely in whether it wins Monday night or not.
The season isn’t over for the Bucs, which fell to 24-9. They’ll play in the postseason, although Forbes said he doesn’t think they will get an NIT bid.
“I have to be realistic,” Forbes said. “I’d like to get in the NIT, but I don’t think we will. We have good numbers, but they’re not good enough probably to be in the NIT.
“I think we’re good enough to play in it. We’ll pick one of those other ones.”
Magee has made 498 3-pointers in his career, ranking second all-time in NCAA Division I, and is closing in on the record of 504 held by Travis Bader of Oakland.
It wasn’t just about the numbers for Magee, who was 10 for 14 overall from the field. It was how he was doing it. With ETSU’s best two defenders, Bo Hodges and Isaiah Tisdale, on him, he made his first six 3-pointers, often off balance, leaning the wrong way and with a hand in his face.
“It seemed like Hodges or Tisdale were all over me the whole night,” said Magee, the SoCon’s player of the year and the league’s all-time leading 3-point shooter. “I wasn’t really feeling too comfortable. But I’m glad we got them down.”
When Forbes was asked what a team can do to slow Magee when he gets on a roll, he drew a laugh in the interview room.
“Break his legs?” Forbes said. “I don’t know. You don’t. Bo Hodges is a really good defender. So is Tisdale. They were there and he made them. It’s almost comical that he can be looking in the other direction and make a three. And he makes them from 35 feet.”
Almost left as an afterthought was Wofford’s all-conference center Cameron Jackson, who had 20 points and seven rebounds. Nathan Hoover added 10 points.
Freshman point guard Daivien Williamson led ETSU with 17 points. He was 4 for 5 on 3-pointers. Mladen Armus had 15 points and nine rebounds and went 7 of 8 from the free-throw line.
Tray Boyd III added 13 points while Tisdale had 12.
“They’re the class of our league and they’ll probably go into the NCAA Tournament and win a game or two,” Forbes said. “I’ll be shocked if they don’t. They’re really good.”
The Bucs battled from a double-digit deficit to climb back into the game midway through the second half. It gave them some hope, but it didn’t last long.
After Jackson scored to make it 59-49, Boyd swished a 3-pointer to begin the comeback.
A Hodges steal was followed by a 3-pointer from Tisdale and suddenly the Bucs were down 59-55 and there was still 8:39 left on the clock.
Magee — who else? — then made another 3-pointer, this one from the top of the key, making him 4 for 4 from long range.
“Tisdale hit the shot over there in the corner and I called timeout, which I typically don’t do,” Wofford coach Mike Young said.
“We were were going to run something for a pretty good player, as we have done many, many, many times.”
Jackson then slammed home a miss from Storm Murphy, and moments later Magee made his fifth 3-pointer. Nathan Hoover followed with one of his own and the Terriers had their biggest lead of the day, 70-58, with 6:08 remaining.
In a game where Magee seemed to make a shot every time the Terriers needed one, he made the biggest at the 3:59 mark when he caught a pass off a pick, fired up a deep 3 and was fouled by Tisdale as the ball sailed through the net. Magee pumped his fist, knowing that was the blow that would send his team into the championship game.
“I love taking those shots when the other team is making a run and the crowd is getting into it,” Magee said.