Jan. 2, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - The Western Carolina men's basketball team turned a seven-point halftime lead into a 21-point route of UNCG as the Catamounts opened Southern Conference play with a 72-51 win over the Spartans Thursday night in the Ramsey Center.
WCU, who improves to 6-0 at home and 8-8 overall, forced a season-high 23 turnovers leading to 35 points as the Catamount defense held the Spartans to just 22 second half points. The Purple & Gold forced 13 second half turnovers leading to 19 point. Seven of the 10 Catamounts that played in the game recorded a steal led by James Sinclair and Tawaski King with three steals each.
The Catamounts held the Spartans to 40 percent from the field and 29 percent from behind the 3-point stripe, while shooting 45 percent overall and 41 percent from behind the arc. UNCG did shoot 88 percent from the line, 15-of-17, compared to WCU's 69 percent, 9-of-13, from the charity stripe.
Leading 9-7 just over eight minutes into the game, WCU mounted a 12-4 run to take a 21-11 lead on a Trey Sumler triple with 8:44 to play in the half. Mike Brown, who finished a perfect 4-for-4 from the field including 2-for-2 from 3-point range, tallied five points during the stretch.
However, UNCG answered with a 10-2 run to pull within two points, 23-21, two minutes later following an old fashion 3-point play from Kyle Cain. Cain finished with 17 points on a 6-of-10 shooting performance from the field and four free throws to lead all scorers in the game. The Spartans took their only lead of the game, 29-28, at the two-minute mark following another Cain 3-point play, only to see the Sumler led Catamounts close out the half on a 6-0 run to take a 36-29 lead at the break. Sumler, who finished the game as the Catamounts' leading scorer with 16 points, had four points, including an isolation hanging elbow jumper, and steal to spark the WCU run.
The Spartans scored four of the first five points in the first two minutes of the second half to trim the Catamount lead down to four points, 37-33, but WCU took control of a game that would turn into a physical affair in the final 20 minutes with an 18-4 run to take a 55-37 lead with 10:41 remaining. WCU pushed the lead to as high as 24 points, 69-45, with four and a half minutes to play en route to the 72-51 win.
Brown's perfect performance from the floor gave him 13 points, trailing Sumler's game team-high 16 points for WCU. Sumler, who is the reigning SoCon Player of the Week as announced by the league's office on Tuesday, has led WCU in scoring in the last three games. The Catamounts got nine points from James Sinclair and eight points and a team-high six rebounds from King. Torrion Brummitt continued his streak of solid performances with six points as the sophomore forward knocked down all three of his field goal attempts.
Trailing Cain for the Spartans was Kayel Locke, who scored 14 points highlighted by a 6-of-6 performance from the free throw line.
The Purple & Gold stay in the Ramsey Center with Elon, who was picked to win the league in the preseason by the league's media and coaches, on Saturday, January 4 at 2 p.m. for their next game.
Western Carolina vs. UNCG Game Notes
- The win improves WCU to 6-0 in the Ramsey Center and 8-8 overall in the 2013-14 season ... The Catamounts improve to 17-20 all-time in SoCon openers.
- Sophomore Mike Brown was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and 2-for-2 from the behind the 3-point line ... It was the first time in his career Brown had been perfect from the floor with more than one attempt.
- Trey Sumler scored 16 points to lead the Catamounts in scoring for the third straight game and seventh time this season.
- Sumler became the just the seventh Catamount to cross 1,700 career points with his 16 points Thursday ... He now has 1,712 points, 65 points shy of sixth place all-time - current WCU assistant coach Anquell McCollum and his 1,777 point;
- Sumler could be the first player coached by McCollum to surpass the coach on the all-time scoring lists;
- Sumler moves into fifth place for 3-point field goals made ahead of Kyle Greathouse -- 187 made 3-pointers -- with 188 career 3-pointers;
- The Catamounts forced 23 Spartan turnovers - the most by a WCU opponent this season ... WCU scored 35 points off turnovers, also the most by the Catamounts this season ... WCU forced 21 turnovers from Coastal Carolina (12/04) and Wittenberg (11/08) - WCU scored 21 points off turnovers against Wittenberg.