CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Junior Onno Steger scored a career-high 23 points as Western Carolina defeated Samford 76-69 on Saturday afternoon at the Ramsey Center.
Western Carolina improves to 4-13 overall and 1-3 in the Southern Conference while Samford drops to 11-6 overall and 1-2.
Steger’s 23 points surpassed his previous high of 18 points against High Point on Dec. 15. He tied his career-high of five 3-pointers and made a career-best nine field goals. Kameron Gibson finished with 20 points and a career-high five assists. Carlos Dotson recorded his seventh double-double of the year with 13 points and 15 rebounds while Matt Halvorsen finished in double figures with 10 points. Of Dotson’s 15 rebounds, 13 came on the defensive glass to tie a career-high.
Myron Gordon paced the Bulldogs with 21 points followed by Robert Allen with 16 and Josh Sharkey with 10. Gordon had a team-leading six rebounds while Starkey had five assists.
Samford opened the game on a 5-0 run before a Halvorsen 3-pointer tied the game at 9 at the 15:54 mark. Halvorsen gave the hosts their first lead of the game, 11-10, on the next Catamount possession before Samford tied the game on a Gordon free throw. Following a 3-pointer by Allen that tied the contest at 14, Western Carolina went on a 6-0 run capped by a pair of Adam Sledd free throws to lead 20-14 with 11:40 remaining.
Following a Dotson layup that made the score 24-18 in favor of the Catamounts at the 9:59 mark, Samford went on a 13-0 run to lead 31-24 with 4:16 to play. The Catamounts closed the half on a 13-4 run as Steger sank a 3-pointer with three seconds left to give WCU a 37-35 halftime lead.
The Catamounts came out of the locker room with a 7-2 run, leading 44-37 after a Steger 3-pointer at the 18:21 mark. Samford trimmed the WCU lead to 47-42 with two free throws with 15:30 remaining before Western Carolina took a game-high nine-point lead, 55-46, with 11 minutes left. The Bulldogs answered with an 8-0 run, pulling to within a point on a Gordon 3-pointer with 8:27 to play.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Gibson pushed the Catamount lead back to seven, 61-54, before the Bulldogs claimed a 65-63 lead on two Brandon Austin free throws with just under three minutes to go. The teams traded the lead before Steger sank a 3-pointer for a 69-67 advantage with 94 seconds remaining followed by another 3-pointer on the next Catamount possession. Samford pulled to within three, 72-69, with 20 seconds to play but Gibson and Halvorsen made free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
Western Carolina went 26-for-49 from the field for a season-best 53.1 shooting percentage. Samford went 24-for-53 to finish at 45.3 percent from the field. The Catamounts went 11-for-31 (41.9 percent) from behind the 3-point line and 11-for-13 (84.6 percent) at the free throw line. Samford finished 5-for-17 (29.4 percent) behind the arc and 16-for-20 (80.0 percent) at the free throw line. WCU held a 33-24 advantage in rebounds.
WCU returns to action on Thursday, traveling to Mercer for a 7 p.m. tip-off.