CULLOWHEE, N.C. – The Western Carolina men’s basketball team opens its quest for the Southern Conference tournament crown on Friday evening at 5 p.m. as the ninth-seeded Catamounts face #8 seed VMI in the opening game of the 2019 Ingles Southern Conference Tournament presented by General Shale inside the US Cellular Center in Asheville.

The Catamounts and Keydets square off in the first of two opening round games with the winner facing top-seeded Wofford at Noon on Saturday. Friday’s game will be broadcast on ESPN+ with Pete Yanity, Dean Keener and Stormy Buonantony as talent. The Catamount Sports Network will provide coverage with Gary Ayers on the call and Daniel Hooker providing color commentary. All games can be heard on WWCU-FM, Power 90dot5 in Cullowhee, 105.7-FM/540-AM WRGC in Sylva as well as online at www.catamountsports.com. Live stats will also be available.

WCU supporters are invited to visit Catamount Central at Pack’s Tavern in Asheville from 3 p.m. until 4:30 pm. A complimentary buffet will be provided with beverages available for purchase. Shuttles will be provided from Pack’s Tavern to the US Cellular Center by Leap Frog Tours. Attendees are asked to RSVP to Chante Freeman in the Catamount Club at catamountclub@wcu.edu.

Western Carolina is 7-24 overall and 4-14 in the Southern Conference following an 81-74 loss at ETSU to end the regular season last Saturday. Kameron Gibson led the Catamounts with 23 points while Marc Gosselin posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Gibson along with Carlos Dotson were honored by the Southern Conference on Wednesday as postseason awards were announced. Dotson earned a spot on the all-conference third-team while Gibson’s efforts in his first collegiate season got him SoCon All-Freshman recognition.

VMI finished 10-20 overall and 4-14 in league play with its 81-78 win over The Citadel on Saturday, closing the season with three-consecutive victories to earn the eighth seed. Garrett Gilkeson and Sarju Patel both scored 19 points to lead the Keydets in the win over their rival Bulldogs. Bubba Parham, who led the SoCon in scoring with an average of 20.8 points per game, was named All-Southern Conference second team on Wednesday.

The Catamounts and Keydets have not met in the league tournament since the 1996 semifinals, resulting in a 97-93 Catamount victory. Friday’s game is the 60th all-time meeting in the series which WCU leads 34-25 . However, VMI swept the season series thanks to a 91-83 triumph in Lexington, Va. on Jan. 19 and an 83-78 win in Cullowhee on Feb. 23.

The winner of Friday’s first round game will face No.1 Wofford in the quarterfinals on Saturday at Noon. The winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup will face either No. 4 ETSU or No. 5 Chattanooga on Sunday at 4 p.m.

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