Jan. 5, 2012
Chattanooga, Tenn. - Western Carolina erased an eight-point second half deficit to pull ahead by two, 60-58, on an offensive rebound and put-back by Tawaski King with seven minutes remaining in the game Thursday night. However, the Catamounts would only manage two more points the rest of the way as the Chattanooga Mocs rode a 20-to-2 run to the closing horn en route to a 78-62 victory in Southern Conference play at the McKenzie Arena.
WCU (7-8, 2-1 SoCon) made a season-high 12 of its school-record 35 3-point field goal attempts, but could only manage 1-for-9 shooting during UTC's decisive over the final seven minutes.
"I thought Chattanooga's energy to start the second half was really key," opened Hunter during post-game comments with the media. "It looked like they were really trying to push the ball a little more in the second half than the first half. Rebounding, obviously, was a big factor all night long. I thought Drazen Zlovaric really gave them a good inside presence and we did really have anyone to match that."
He added, "We were too one-dimensional tonight. We became basically a perimeter team. (Chattanooga) started sitting on the three because we had no inside presence."
Senior Keaton Cole scored a career-high 18 points by netting a career-best six 3-pointers to pace the Catamounts. Cole, a native of Toronto, Ontario, scored a dozen points in the first half alone. He additionally moved into 10th-place on WCU's career 3-pointers made chart, now with 132 career treys including a single-season career-best 44 this year.
Redshirt sophomore Trey Sumler recorded a double-double with 13 points and a career-high 12 assists without committing a turnover to lead WCU. Sophomore Ishmael Hollis chipped in nine points off the bench while Harouna Mutombo and Preston Ross both scored seven in the losing effort for WCU.
Western Carolina made nine 3-pointers in the first half and took a two-point, 38-36, edge into the halftime locker room. In the second half, a 9-0 spurt by the Mocs including consecutive 3-pointers by senior Keegan Bell gave UTC an eight-point edge four minutes into the final frame
Trailing by the same margin with 12:30 remaining, the Catamounts embarked on a 12-to-2 run that included 3-pointers from both Sumler and Cole, as well as buckets from Ross and Mutombo. King's offensive rebound and lay-up off the window capped the rally, putting WCU up a pair, 60-58. However, the Mocs closed the game by outscoring the Catamounts by 18 including all six free throws in the final minute to secure the win.
Serbian post Drazen Zlovaric led four Mocs players in double figures with a career-highs in a double-double effort, 19 points and 12 rebounds while Ricky Taylor score 15 with eight boards. Omar Wattad scored nine of his 12 points from beyond the 3-point arc with Dontay Hampton scoring 11 points and Z. Mason adding nine points and nine rebounds, both off the bench.
Bell finished with eight points and 12 assists for Chattanooga.
WCU trailed by eight early in Thursday night's contest as the Mocs connected on six of their first nine field goal attempts including a pair of 3-pointers by Wattad. The Catamounts fought back, though, outscoring Chattanooga by a count of 14-to-5 during a four-minute span midway through the half, taking its first lead on a triple by Cole with just under eight to play before intermission.
All told, WCU used a 20-to-5 run to erase the eight-point Mocs lead and take a seven-point lead, 28-21. Sumler's 3-pointer with just under a minute to play before the break gave the Catamounts the two-point cushion it enjoyed at the half.
Chattanooga held a scoring advantage of 42-to-16 in points in the paint, as well as a 50-to-26 edge in rebounding including 20 offensive rebounds it converted into 17 second-chance points. The Mocs also held an advantage from the charity stripe, making 16 of their 27 attempts while WCU was just 2-for-8 from the line.
Western Carolina returns to action on Saturday afternoon in the nightcap of a Catamount basketball double-header. The WCU women's squad hosts UNC Greensboro at 2:00 pm with the men battling two-time defending SoCon Tournament champion, Wofford, with tip-off at 4:30 pm. Both games will be televised locally on WMYA-TV, My 40 out of Asheville.
Fans can also follow Saturday's double-header action on the Catamount Sports Network. The women's broadcast will begin at 1:45 pm on WWCU-FM, Power 90dot5 in Cullowhee and online at CatamountSports.com. The men's game will also be delivered along those same two outlets, joined by 920 AM WPTL in Canton with air time at 4:30 pm.
Post-Game Notes: - Western Carolina dropped its first game in Southern Conference play, falling at Chattanooga on Thursday night ... UTC was the preseason favorite to win the division by both the head coaches and voting members of the media during preseason ... WCU and UTC have shared two of the last three SoCon North Division crowns;
- WCU lost for the 32nd time in 34 attempts against Chatta
nooga in the McKenzie Arena ... the Catamounts are just 2-32 against UTC in the "Round House" all-time - and holds a record of just 3-35 in the building lifetime;
- Senior Keaton Cole set career-highs for both points scored (18) and 3-pointers made (6) and attempted (16) in a single-game on Thursday night in the road loss at Chattanooga ... All told, WCU attempted a school-record 35 3-pointers against the Mocs ... the previous high was 34 set in 2007, also against UTC;
- With the six made 3-pointers at UTC, Keaton Cole has moved into WCU's all-time career top 10 list for treys made in a career ... Already with a single-season career best of 44 made 3-pointers this season, Cole moved past David Donerlson (1989-90) into 10th on the charts with 132 made shots from beyond the arc;
- Harouna Mutombo continues to rank 20th in school history in scoring, now with 1,306 career points ... He is just 18 points shy of 19th-place Dave Jones (1,324 points from 1957-60).