Jan. 18, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - After trailing by three at the break, Western Carolina scored the first six points of the second half and clung on as the Catamounts narrowly escaped with a 67-64 Southern Conference win over Samford Saturday afternoon in front of the biggest home crowd of the season in the Ramsey Center.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair as WCU led by five points, 30-25, with three minutes to play in the opening frame. Samford fought back with an 8-0 run highlighted by five points from Tyler Hood as the Bulldogs ended the period with a 33-30 lead.
Samford held a slight advantage from the field in the first half shooting 48 percent from the floor compared to WCU's mark of 46 percent. The Bulldogs made five of its 11 3-point attempts in the half for 46 percent, while the Catamounts went 2-for-6 from behind the arc for 33 percent.
The Catamounts came out of the half with the first six points to take a 36-33 lead less than a minute into play following a three-point play from Brandon Boggs and a transition triple from James Sinclair following a Trey Sumler steal and assist.
The Purple & Gold pushed the margin out to nine points, 49-40, at the 15-minute mark on the heels of a Sumler four-point play. Sumler was fouled while draining a three from the left wing on the play. The Catamounts controlled the next eight minutes of play even extending the lead out to 10 points, 62-52, following a 3-point basket from Tom Tankelewicz with seven minutes to play.
However, Samford used the next three and a half minutes to chip the WCU lead down to two points, 62-60, on a Russell Wilson fast break layup. A minute a half later, a Tim Williams layup pulled the Bulldogs within one point, 64-63, but Sinclair converted two free throws to regain a three-point lead, 66-63, for the Catamounts with 2:22 left.
Samford got a free throw from Tim Williams with 59 seconds to cut the lead down to two points, 66-64, and WCU kept the Bulldogs in the game as the Catamounts missed their next four free throw attempts. Mike Brown missed the first of his two attempts with two seconds to play, but converted the second to give WCU a 67-64 advantage. On the ensuing Samford inbounds, Raijon Kelly's game-tying 3-point attempt from half court hit the front of the iron as WCU escaped with the win.
WCU remains unbeaten in the Ramsey Center on the season improving to 8-0 at home. The win also lifts the Catamounts to 11-8 overall and 4-0 in SoCon play, while Samford slips to 7-13 on the season and 1-4 in the conference.
Samford outshot WCU going 44 percent from the floor after a 40 percent mark in the second half. WCU dipped to 37 percent over the final 20 minutes as the Catamounts ended the game at 42 percent overall. However the Purple & Gold made five of its 15 3-point attempts in the second half and limited the Bulldogs to an 0-for-5 mark. WCU finished 33 percent from three, while Samford ended at 31 percent.
Both teams entered the game with a 69 free throw percentage, but neither performed at its season average in the game. WCU made 16 of its 25 free throws for 64 percent, while Samford converted on 17 of its 28 attempts for 61 percent.
WCU's Sinclair and Samford's Isaiah Williams tied for the game-high with 15 points each. Sinclair ended 5-of-6 from the floor including a 2-of-3 ledger from behind the arc, while Isaiah Williams went 5-of-7 overall and with two 3-points on three attempts. Both players made three of their four free throw attempts.
The Catamounts picked up 13 points from Sumler and 10 points from Boggs in the win. Sumler also handed out six assists, while Kenneth Hall protected the WCU rim with a career-high six blocks.
Tim Williams and Hood tallied 11 points each for the Bulldogs. All 11 of Hood's points came in the first half as he went 0-for-3 from the field and 0-for-2 from 3-point range.
WCU travels to Spartanburg, S.C. Monday for a showdown with Wofford at 7 p.m. in the Benjamin Johnson Arena. The WCU-Wofford game will be aired on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app as part of the Southern Conference Game of the Week.
Western Carolina vs. Samford Game Notes
- With the win, WCU improves to 11-8 overall and 4-0 in the Southern Conference ... The Catamounts are off to their third 4-0 start to SoCon play in school history - a school record to open a season ... WCU went 4-0 in 1994-95 and 2012-13 ... It is the second time under head coach Larry Hunter;
- The Catamounts improve to 8-0 in the Ramsey Center in 2013-14 ... WCU is 87-39 under Hunter ... WCU's best start at home to open is 10 games in 2010-11 when the Catamount's went 11-1 at home;
- WCU trailed at the half 33-30 ... It was the 10th time this season the Catamounts had trailed leading into the final 20 minutes and the third time WCU has rallied for the win.
- James Sinclair tied for a game-high with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor ... It was his third straight double-digit game and eighth of the season.
- Trey Sumler converted WCU's second four-point play in the second half with 15:08 on the clock;
- Trey Sumler notched his 13th straight game in double figures with his 13 points against Samford ... Sumler has scored in double-digits in 15 of the 17 games he has played this season ... He has scored 10 or more points 92 times in his career as a Catamount;
- Sumler continues to track down assistant coach and former Southern Conference Player of the Year, Anquell McCollum, on the all-time scoring lists ... Sumler now has 1,759 career points, 19 shy of passing McCollum and his 1,777 points career points.
- Kenneth Hall recorded six blocked shots - the only six by WCU in the game - setting a new career-high ... It also marks the highest block total by a Catamount this season.
- Saturday's attendance of 2,146 in the Ramsey Center was the largest home crowd of the 2013-14 season.