March 7, 2011
Chattanooga, Tenn. - Mike Williams scored a career-high 25 points and junior Harouna Mutombo posted a double-double to lead Western Carolina, but a first half run by Wofford - the South division's second seed - handed the Terriers a lead they would never relinquish in an 86-72 win over the Catamounts in the semifinal round of the 2011 Southern Conference Men's Basketball Championship at the McKenzie Arena.
Wofford used a 13-to-1 first half run to take a double-digit lead and was efficient from the field, hitting on 26-of-48 field goal attempts. The Terriers consistently got to the foul line, hitting a season-high 28 free throws at an 80 percent clip.
The loss -- WCU's third-straight overall to the Terriers and second-consecutive in the SoCon semifinals - relegated the Catamounts to 18-15 overall while Wofford advances to Monday night's tournament championship game against the South's top-seed, College of Charleston, who dispatched Furman in the second semifinal. Monday's tip-off is slated for 9 pm on ESPN2.
"Wofford is an awfully good basketball team. They were able to go on the 13-to-1 run midway through the first half to give them a lead that we were not able to overcome," said WCU head coach Larry Hunter after the game. "I am really proud of the way we competed. We needed our center (Richie Gordon), to be more productive than he was against a team of Wofford's caliber. Our guys really did play hard - none played harder than (Mike Williams). He competed his guts out and had a great year for us."
Williams made a career-best 11 field goals on Sunday including a pair of 3-pointers in scoring a career-high 25 points. Mutombo recorded his fifth-career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, dishing out a team-high three assists for WCU. SoCon Freshman of the Year Trey Sumler was a third Catamount in double figures with a dozen points including a pair of 3-pointers while true freshman Brandon Boggs finished with nine.
Senior Richie Gordon struggled from the floor and with foul trouble, shooting 0-for-5 from the floor and just 2-for-6 from the free throw line. The Atlanta, Ga., native was tagged with five fouls in only 17 minutes on the court, seeing a mere nine minutes in the first half
Wofford (20-12) had three players score in double figures led by senior Noah Dahlman with 18 points including eight from the free throw line. Guards Cameron Rundles and Jamar Diggs both added 17, with Terry Martin (9), Kevin Giltner (8) and Nathan Parker (7) combined for 24 points off the bench for the Terriers.
"We tip our hat to a very fine Western Carolina team and they are as well coached as anybody I have ever coached against," said Wofford head coach Mike Young. "At the end of the day, we have been through these pressure types of games before."
The Terriers shot 59-percent in the first half, draining 16-of-27 field goals and 11-of-12 free throws (92 percent) in the opening 20 minutes. At the 11:35 mark of the first half, Nathan Parker ignited the 13-to-1 Terrier spurt when his jumper gave Wofford the lead back as the Terriers stretched it to 11, 26-15, with 8:22 to play before the break.
Gordon, the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, was whistled for his third foul with 9:33 to go with the Catamounts down just four. From that point forward, the Terriers began to stretch their lead.
Wofford led by as many as 16 points in the first half before WCU countered with a quick 12-to-3 run of its own to stay within striking distance. Sparked by three steals on consecutive possessions, the Catamounts closed to within seven inside the final minute of the first half before Rundles banked home a runner with three seconds remaining to put Wofford ahead, 45-36, at the intermission.
Mutombo scored the first four points of the second half to bring the Catamounts to within five at 45-40, but WCU would never get any closer the rest of the way. Wofford scored seven-straight points after the Catamounts had clawed back to within two possessions to regain the double-digit lead, 52-40, and WCU was only managed to trim the deficit to 10 three times inside the final 12 minutes.
Western Carolina's bench was outscored 26-to-7 and the Terriers held a 38-to-30 rebounding edge.