Cullowhee, N.C. – Redshirt junior Mason Faulkner scored a career-high 31 points, 29 of which came in the second half, as Western Carolina rallied past Chattanooga 87-77 in the Southern Conference opener for both teams Tuesday at the Ramsey Center.
Faulkner went 8-for-19 from the field, 3-for-8 behind the 3-point line and 12-for-16 at the free throw line while also dishing out a team-best six assists to lead WCU. Senior Carlos Dotson posted his second straight double-double with a season-high 21 points and 12 rebounds coming on 10-of-11 shooting.
WCU's comeback victory was spurred by 58 points in the second half, the most by the Catamounts in a half this season and most since tallying 60 points in the second half in a 103-82 win over The Citadel on Feb. 16, 2019.
Matt Ryan led Chattanooga (5-4, 0-1) with 18 points - 16 in the first half - and seven rebounds. David Jean-Baptiste had 14 points followed by Maurice Commander with 11.
Western Carolina (6-2, 1-0 SoCon) opened the game with 10-2 run capped by a Faulkner bucket at the 15:41 mark. Chattanooga then responded with a 15-3 run, claiming its first lead of the game on a Grant Ledford 3-pointer at the 12-minute mark. An A.J. Caldwell trey gave the visitors a game-high 12-point lead, 28-16, with 5:53 to play in the opening stanza. Ryan’s 3-pointer with 37 seconds remaining sent the Mocs into halftime with a 39-29 advantage.
After a pair of Commander free throws handed Chattanooga a 45-34 edge with just under 17 minutes remaining, WCU mounted a 12-to-1 run to close within two, 48-46, after a Marcus Thomas layup with 12:13 to play. Chattanooga pushed its lead back out to seven, 59-52, after a Caldwell layup at the 9:17 mark.
From there, the Catamounts embarked on a 13-0 run capped by a Dotson layup with 6:16 to go for a 65-59 lead. WCU led by 11 points on two occasions over the next four minutes before the Mocs cut the lead to six, 80-74, thanks to two Stefan Kenic free throws with 59 seconds remaining. Chattanooga would get no closer as the Catamounts sank free throws in the final 40 seconds to secure the win.
Chattanooga slightly outshot Western Carolina from the field by a 48.5 percent to 45.8 percent margin for the game. The Mocs made 7-of-15 3-point attempts in the first half but only converted two of 14 3-pointers in the second half. By comparison, WCU went 3-for-9 behind the arc in the first half and 5-for-10 in the second. WCU outrebounded Chattanooga 39-25 and outscored the Mocs in the paint 42-34.
The Catamounts welcome UNC Asheville to the Ramsey Center on Saturday for a 4 p.m. tip-off in a game that kicks off the “Ingles SoCon Game of the Week” broadcast schedule. The contest can be seen on the following Nexstar affiliates: WCBD (Charleston), WGHP (Greensboro/High Point), WJHL (Johnson City), WYCW (Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville) and WWCW (Lynchburg/Roanoke).
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