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Catamounts Remain Perfect in SoCon by Edging UNCG, 62-59

James Sinclair got the Ramsey Center crowd out of its seats with an up-and-under spinning, one-handed slam dunk during Saturday afternoon's home win over UNCG. (Photo by Mark Haskett)

Jan. 12, 2013

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Cullowhee, N.C. - Struggling from the field on Saturday afternoon, Western Carolina stepped to the charity stripe and drained a season-high 31 free throws to edge preseason North Division favorite UNCG, 62-59, in Southern Conference action in the Ramsey Center.

WCU (7-9, 4-0 SoCon) claimed its third-straight victory on the season despite shooting just 32-percent from the floor including a season-low 1-for-13 from beyond the 3-point arc. With the long-range shots not falling, the Catamounts put the ball on the deck and drove, outscoring UNCG 24-to-18 in the paint and earning 38 free throw attempts - the most for a WCU team since 2009.

"We hit the big ones down the stretch on a night when we just weren't shooting very well - and give UNCG some credit for that," said WCU head coach Larry Hunter during post-game comments on the Catamount Sports Network. "I thought our energy level was really good. A lot of guys stepped up. We got stops where we needed them and put ourselves in a really good position down the stretch. We won ugly today."

Redshirt junior Trey Sumler scored 11 of his team-high 17 points from the free throw line to lead the Catamounts with junior post Preston Ross also finishing in double figures with 12 points. Brandon Boggs gave WCU a lift in the second half with seven of his nine points coming after intermission, while Tawaski King tallied eight points and seven rebounds in the win.

Sophomore James Sinclair finished with seven points and a game-high eight rebounds.

Western Carolina took a game-high lead of seven points midway through the first half on an 8-0 spurt, capped by a jumper by Boggs at the 7:24 mark before managing a one-point edge at halftime on two Ross free throws, 24-23.

UNCG (3-11, 1-2 SoCon) took control of a see-saw affair, leading for nearly 10 minutes midway through the second half and taking its game-high lead of six points on three separate occasions.

Tied at 48 with 2:39 to play, WCU took the lead for good on a pair of charity tosses by freshman Mike Brown, and matched the game-high advantage of seven on free throws by Sumler with 1:10 remaining. But the Spartans would not go away as Derrell Armstrong scored eight UNCG points inside the final 30 seconds to keep the pressure on. The Catamounts hit 6-of-8 from the foul line during that same time frame to hold on for the victory as Armstrong's potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer missed hard off the back of the rim.

All told, Western Carolina scored its final 17 points from the free throw line with its final field goal coming with 5:01 remaining in regulation on a lay-up by King.

Armstrong scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, including connecting on three 3-pointers. Nicholas Paulos also sank three 3-pointers and finished with 10 points, while David Williams finished with nine points and six rebounds to lead UNCG.

UNCG was without two starters in Korey Van Dussen (wrist) and Trevis Simpson (concussion) - the latter of which entered the weekend leading the SoCon in scoring at 18.0 points per game.

Both teams committed 15 turnovers on the afternoon with WCU scoring 18 points off those giveaways while UNCG converted for 12 points. The Catamounts won the battle of the boards, 41-to-35, with both squads pulling down 13 offensive rebounds.

Matching it's best-ever start in SoCon play, Western Carolina remains at home to host another North Division foe in Elon (8-7, 1-2 SoCon) on Monday night in the Ramsey Center. The Phoenix fell at Appalachian State on Saturday evening, 80-70. Tip-off between WCU and Elon is scheduled for 7:00 pm.

Western Carolina vs. UNCG - Post-game Notes:
- Western Carolina won its second-straight game over UNCG - and 10th in the last 11 meetings overall ... WCU leads the all-time series 25-16 including a 16-4 mark in Cullowhee ... the Catamounts won for the fifth-straight time over UNCG in the Ramsey Center;

- Western Carolina has won 50 of its last 60 (.833) home games including 33 of its last 40 (.825) Southern Conference games in Cullowhee ... Over the past three seasons, WCU is 48-10 (.828) at home ... During head coach Larry Hunter's tenure, the Catamounts are 71-24 (.747) inside the Ramsey Center;

- With the win, WCU has matched its best-ever start to a Southern Conference season at 4-0 in league play, duplicating the 1994-95 team ... the '94-95 team lost its fifth conference game and finished just 8-6 in league play;

- Western Carolina was held to just one made 3-pointer as Tom Tankelewicz buried the Catamounts' first attempt of the day at the 18:50 mark of the first quarter ... WCU missed its final 12 attempts to shoot just 1-for-13 from beyond the arc ... the one made trey is matches the fewest for a Catamount squad since making just one at the College of Charleston (L, 76-64) on Feb. 5, 2007 - also a 1-for-13 (7.7%) shooting performance;

- WCU's 38 free throw attempts on Saturday were a season high, as well as marking the most by a Catamount team since shooting 41 in a road win over Louisville (12/12/09) ... the 31 made free throws by WCU were the most in a game since hitting 37 against Atlanta Christian on Nov. 22, 2005 ... WCU started the game making its first 16 free throw attempts before its first miss;

- With a team-high 17 points on Saturday afternoon, redshirt junior Trey Sumler now has 1,122 career points ... He currently stands tied for 31st in school history, matching the career output of Larry Grant (1970-73);

- Saturday's win for WCU was No. 623 for Larry Hunter in his coaching career and the 114th all-time at WCU ... Hunter is just 31 victories shy of second place in program history, trailing Steve Cottrell who won 145 games from 1977-87.