Jan. 4, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - James Sinclair made a statement with a fast-break slam-dunk early in the second half to ignite the Catamount crowd of 1,174 fans in the Ramsey Center as the Western Carolina men's basketball team improved to 2-0 in Southern Conference play with a 74-62 win over preseason favorite Elon Saturday afternoon.
With WCU leading 40-39 almost five minutes into the second half, Sinclair took a pass from Trey Sumler on the fast break and threw it down over an Elon defender sending the junior guard to the line where he completed the 3-point play to give WCU a four point lead, 43-39. The slam awoke the crowd and the Catamounts, who had scored only ten points in a ten-minute stretch from the six-minute mark in the first half to 16-minute mark in the second half.
WCU had led by as many as 12 points, 20-8, with 10:21 left in the first half, but saw its lead dwindle down to only two points, 32-30, at the break thanks to a Sumler jumper right before the halftime buzzer.
Elon took its only lead of the game, 39-38, following an Austin Hamilton layup in transition at the 16-minute mark in the second half only to see WCU retake the lead, 40-39, when Tawaski King answered on the ensuing Catamount possession with a bucket.
On the Phoenix's next possession, Kenneth Hall stole a post entry pass on the left wing creating one of WCU's 14 steals in the game and the transition opportunity for the Catamounts. Hall found Sumler, who laid it off to a slashing Sinclair for the thunderous slam giving WCU the four-point edge.
However, Elon cut the lead down to two points, 43-41, following two Sebastian Koch free throws, but Tom Tankelewicz answered when the senior shooter connected on a three from the right corner at the 13-minute mark. Tankalewicz's triple sent WCU on a 16-8 run over the next five minutes as the Catamounts took control of the contest with a 59-49 lead with eight minutes remaining.
WCU took the lead to as high as 17 points, 68-51, with 5:47 to play en route to the 12 point, 74-62, win as the Purple & Gold improved to 9-8 overall and 2-0 in the SoCon. The Catamounts remain unbeaten at home in the Ramsey Center in seven games just over the midway point of the 2013-14 season.
Elon, who was picked by the league's coaches and media to win the regular season in the preseason polls, slips to 7-8 overall and 0-1 in the SoCon.
Western Carolina used a stingy defense to created 23 Elon turnovers replicating the units' performance Monday night against UNCG in the SoCon opener. The Catamounts turned Elon's miscues into 28 points, while the Phoenix created only 14 turnovers leading to 16 points.
Elon did outshoot WCU from the floor in the loss, 46 percent to 43 percent, but the Catamounts converted six of their 15 3-point field goal attempts for 40 percent compared to Phoenix's 36 percent on 6-of-15 shooting from behind the arc. WCU made 12 of its 15 free throw attempts led by a perfect 6-of-6 performance from Sinclair for an 80 percent free throw percentage, while Elon converted only 17 of its 26 attempts from the charity stripe for 64 percent.
Sumler led all scorers with 21 points as he knocked down eight of his 12 shots from the floor including both of his 3-point attempts. Sumler also led the way with a game-high six assists. Sinclair and Tankelewicz added 12 points each from WCU, while Hall and King chipped in eight points. Hall finished a perfect 4-of-4 from the field in the game.
Hamilton made seven of his nine shots and five of his six free throws for 19 points to pace the Phoenix. Koch connected on four 3-pointers sparking his 16-point performance, while Lucas Troutman added 15 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
The Catamounts will return to the court Saturday, January 11 at Georgia Southern with tipoff schedule for 2 p.m. down in Statesboro, Ga. for their next game before returning back to Cullowhee on Saturday, January 18 with Samford at 2 p.m.
Western Carolina vs. Elon Game Notes
- Trey Sumler scored his seventh 20-point game of the season and had his 11 consecutive game with double-digit points ... Sumler scored 21 points on an efficient 8-of-12 shooting from the floor;
- Sumler continues to inch up career scoring list with 1,733 career points trialing current assistant coach and former Catamount standout, Anquell McCollum, who scored 1,777 points from 1992-1996 ... Sumler could be the first WCU player to pass McCollum while his an assistant coach.
- James Sinclair went a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line ... He is the fifth Catamount to be perfect at the line with a minimum of six attempts;
- Kenneth Hall went 4-for-4 from the floor in the game for eight points ... His four made field goal attempts tied a career-high of four previously set against Toccoa Falls on January 17, 2012.
- The win gives WCU a three-game winning streak - its longest of the season ... WCU improves to 9-8 overall and 7-0 inside the friend confines of the Ramsey Center ... It is the team's best start at home since the 2010-11 season when the Catamounts started 10-0 at home ... They finished at 11-1 at home that season;
- WCU is 2-0 to open Southern Conference play.
- WCU held Elon, who entered the game leading the SoCon in points per game at 79, to only 62 points - the Phoenix's second lowest mark of the season.
- WCU has had 14 steals in each of the last two games ... It is also the second straight game WCU forced its opponent to turn the ball over 23 times - and the third time this season.