Jan. 11, 2014
Statesboro, Ga. - Western Carolina outlasted Georgia Southern, 68-67, in a hostile environment inside Hanner Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon as the Catamounts remain unbeaten in Southern Conference play.
With the game tied for the tenth time, this time at 48 with 8:18 remaining, WCU strung together six straight points following a jumper and layup by Brandon Boggs and two Trey Sumler free throws to take a 54-48 lead a minute later. Georgia Southern trimmed the lead down to three points, 55-52, 30 seconds later, but James Sinclair, who led the Catamounts in scoring with 15 points playing an hour down the road from his hometown of Savannah, drilled his third triple of the game in front of the WCU bench to regain the six-point lead, 58-52, with 5:33 showing on the clock.
"I thought James Sinclair -- playing in front of his family and friends -- played real well for us today. He did not miss a shot there for a while," Hunter said of his junior guard. Sinclair started the game 4-for-4 from the field before finishing 6-of-8 overall and 3-of-3 from 3-point range.
WCU refused to let Georgia Southern have a chance to answer as the Catamounts kept the lead at two possessions over the next almost four minutes. Mike Brown scored his only points of the game on back-to-back Catamount possessions to keep the lead at six points, and Kenneth Hall hustled for an offensive rebound to keep a play alive that resulted in a Sumler jumper.
Sumler's jumper gave the Catamounts a five-point lead, 66-61, with a minute to play. On the next GSU possession, Tre Bussey was fouled and sent to the line where he made the second of two free throws. Following an Eagles defensive stop, Bussey was again fouled and sent to the line. This time he capitalized on the opportunity knocking down both to trim the lead down to 66-64 with 40 seconds remaining. However, WCU turned to its leading scorer for a basket in a crunch situation; Sumler, who tallied 13 points and six assists, did not disappoint as he hit a what would prove to be the game-winning basket at the right elbow to give the Catamounts a 68-64 with seven seconds to play. Rhett Harrelson split the Eagles' trap and found Sumler on the play.
"Late, Mike Brown gets two huge baskets off the drive, and how about Rhett Harrelson against the press?" Western Carolina head coach Larry Hunter said following the game. "Earlier during that stretch Trey misses the first shot and (Kenneth) Hall gets a huge offensive rebound and kicked it back out to Trey who hit a big shot. We hit some big free throws and just found a way to win. That is what you have to do on the road in this league."
The Eagles made the Catamounts sweat out the remaining seconds as Jelani Hewitt made a three with two seconds to play pulling the Eagles within one point, 68-67, however, Sumler was fouled on the inbounds pass with 1.5 seconds left sending him to the line. Sumler intentionally missed both free throws, and the Eagles last-second full-court heave was off the mark giving the Catamounts the win.
Boggs also contributed 13 points in the Western Carolina win. Boggs also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Sinclair's team-high 15 points came on a 6-of-8 shooting from the floor including a 3-of-3 performance from behind the arc.
Hewitt led all scorers with 23 points as he made seven of his 15 shots and all eight of his free throws in the losing effort for the Eagles. Bussey chipped in 14 points, while Angel Matias and Brian Homles added 11 points each. Matias grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.
In a game that was a nail bitter from start to finish, WCU led by six points four separate times - all in the second half -- for its largest lead of the game, while GSU held a margin of five points - once early in the first half and once mid-way through the second half - for its largest lead.
The two teams finished deadlocked in field goal percentage at 46 percent each, but WCU went 31 percent, 5-of-16, from 3-point range compared to GSU's 13 percent making two of its 15 long-range attempts.
The Catamounts also held an advantage at the charity stripe converting 13 of its 21 attempts, while the Eagles made 17-of-29 attempts from the line for 59 percent.
The Catamounts return back home Saturday, January 18 with Samford at 2 p.m. before traveling to Wofford on Monday, January 20 for a 7 p.m. tipoff in the Benjamin Johnson Arena with the game scheduled for COVERAGE on ESPN3.
The Purple & Gold come back to Ramsey Center for Davidson on January 23 at 7 p.m. Ingles and WCU have teamed up to celebrate the school's 125th anniversary during the game as the first 500 fans will get a 125th anniversary t-shirt.
Western Carolina at Georgia Southern Game Notes
- With the win, WCU improves to 10-8 overall and 3-0 in SoCon play ... The Catamounts have won their last four games;
- WCU is now 15-20 overall and 15-15 in SoCon games against the Eagles ... The Purple and Gold have won the last three meetings in Statesboro;
- WCU is off to a 3-0 SoCon start for the second consecutive season.
- With his 13 points Saturday - 11 of which came in the second half - Brandon Boggs snapped a three-game streak without scoring in double-figures.
- Trey Sumler has had double-digit points and five plus assists eight times this season ... Sumler scored 13 points and had six assists against the Eagles;
- Sumler was 4-of-12 from the field in the game ... His 12 field goal attempts moved him into ninth place all-time for career field goals attempts at 1,289 attempts.