The Wofford Terriers have a confidence born in the crunch of March.
With a Southern Conference tournament title to defend and a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament on the line, they refused to let it slip out of their hands.
Cameron Rundles scored 21 points to send Wofford to a second straight NCAA tournament berth with a 77-67 victory over College of Charleston in the league championship Monday night.
"We are tickled to death to go back to back in this league, any league, is beyond difficult, and we did it and we are beyond excited," Wofford coach Mike Young said.
Wofford (21-12) lost both regular season games to the Cougars. But the Terriers won their eighth straight game in part because they were perfect at the free throw line until the final minute, hitting their first 20 shots.
"We're not a cocky bunch, but nobody beat us," Rundles said. "I mean in March, nobody has beat us yet in the Southern Conference tournament in two years."
That didn't stop them celebrating.
Noah Dahlman, who scored 20 points, threw the ball so high at the horn it landed atop the scoreboard atop the court. Rundles hugged a teammate tightly, and later the three busloads of students along with the baseball team in the stands chanted "Let's go dancing" over and over.
Charleston (24-10) missed its first NCAA berth since 1999 and coach Bobby Cremins' first since he last took Georgia Tech to the NCAA regional semifinals in 1996. The Cougars came in as the South Division's top seed thanks to those two wins over Wofford in the regular season.
"I thought they were the team to beat," Cremins said. "They were the hottest team coming in here. It was a great game there for a while. Then it got a little bit away from us."
Young credited the win to his "Minnesota Mafia." Dahlman is from Braham while Rundles and Jamar Diggs, who had 17 points, are from Minneapolis. The trio had played each other in youth basketball and later high school before Dahlman convinced Young to let the other two join them at Wofford.
"It just kind of stuck a little bit because we're all tough guys," Dahlman said of the nickname. "Being from the Midwest, we're not flashy at all. We use our game. We're going to grind it out, and it paid off tonight. These guys paid dividends for this program."
Andrew Goudelock, the nation's fourth-leading scorer, topped his average with 25 points for Charleston. Donavan Monroe added 19, and Antwaine Wiggins 12.
"It's tough for me," Goudelock said. "It's going to take a long time to get over. We do have another tournament. We just have to swallow that pill, go out there and keep playing."
Wofford never let the Cougars get any further ahead than six points. The Terriers stayed in the game by finishing 22 of 24 at the free-throw line. They also wound up outshooting Charleston 46.4 percent (26 of 56) to 41.8 percent (23 of 55).
The Cougars missed 6-foot-8 Jeremy Simmons, out with blood clots. Goudelock said he would apologize to his fellow senior for this loss.
"I'm sorry for Jeremy. I'm sorry for the team. I'm sorry for Charleston. I just feel like we could've did something and we just came up short," Goudelock said.
The teams swapped the lead 10 times with seven ties before Wofford took the lead for good with a 10-1 run.
Wiggins scored on a tip-in to put Charleston up 52-49 with 11:20 to go. Dahlman then scored on a reverse layup, and Rundles hit a 3-pointer with 9:48 to put the Terriers up 54-52. Rundles hit another 3, and Martin capped the spurt with a pair of free throws in giving them their biggest lead of the game at 59-53 with 7:12 remaining.
Dahlman helped put away the victory.
Wiggins hit a bucket, then a pair of free throws to make it 65-62 with 4:24 left. Dahlman scored the next eight points for Wofford and his jumper gave the Terriers their biggest lead of the game at 73-64 with 1:41 left.
Wofford's top scorer even chipped in with some defense. He stole the ball from Goudelock with less than a minute to go.
Young pointed to the free throws as a big key, especially early as the Terriers struggled to shoot in the first half.
"Big story of that game getting to the line. Not just getting to the line, but getting them in the basket once you're there," Young said.
Charleston led 32-28 after a very tight first half. The Cougars had the biggest lead at 30-25 with 1:42 left when Trent Wiedeman tipped in a miss by Monroe. But Rundles scored on a layup, then Tim Johnson hit a free throw before Monroe tipped in his own miss with 2.4 seconds left for the lead at the break.
Cremins took the blame for not pulling Goudelock late in the first half when his guard had two personal fouls. Goudelock picked up his third with 18 seconds left before the half scrambling for a ball after a missed shot. Goudelock said he'd never gotten so many fouls in a college game so early.
"I probably should've had him out of the game," Cremins said. "That could've been a coaching mistake."