Asheville, N.C. -
Western Carolina's Tawaski King recorded his first double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds and accounted for five points in a two-minute span as the No. 5 seeded Catamounts overcame a double-digit second half deficit en route to a 66-64 over come-from-behind win over No. 4 seeded Elon in the Southern Conference Tournament's quarterfinal action Saturday afternoon in the US Cellular Center.
Facing the end of its season and an 11-point deficit, 49-38, with 12:23 remaining in the second half, Western Carolina relied on its bench and defense over an eight and a half minute span to ignite Catamount partisan crowd with a 22-10 run that ended with the Purple & Gold holding a 60-59 lead at the under four-minute media timeout. WCU's defense limited Elon to just 3-of-9 from the field, 1-of-5 from beyond the arc and forced three turnovers during the comeback stretch.
Reserve guard Mike Brown started the run with a layup and Brandon Boggs followed with a layup trimming the Elon lead down to seven points, 49-42, with 10:36 left. Following an Phoenix free throw by Ryley Beaumont, the Catamounts continued the spurt with a jumper by James Sinclair and back-to-back 3-pointers by reserve guard Rhett Harrelson, who was playing for the struggling Trey Sumler, pulled the Catamounts within two-points, 52-50, with just over eight minutes remaining.
Elon answered on the ensuing possession with a quick triple from Sebastian Koch, but the Catamounts outscored the Phoenix 6-4 over the next three minutes including four points from King lifting WCU to its first lead, 60-59, with 4:35 to play since the 18:47 mark in the first half when the Catamounts led 4-2.
Following the under four-minute media timeout, two free throws from Elon's Lucas Troutman and a free throw from King knotted the score at 61 with three minutes to play. The Catamounts notched the next five points including a King lay-in to take a 65-61 lead with 20 seconds left to play. Elon picked up a point on an Austin Hamilton free throw and cut the Catamount lead down to two points, 66-64, following a Beaumont layup with 10 seconds to play.
On the following inbounds, WCU lost control of the inbounds in a tie up along the sidelines handing the ball back over to Elon with a sevens seconds left and chance at either the game-tying or game-winning basket.
Elon's Jack Isenbarger's went for the win with a deep 3-pointer from straight on but hit the front of the iron and careened into the hands of Sinclair ending the game and lifting WCU into the semifinals with the 66-64 win.
After sluggish 36 percent field goal percentage in the first half, WCU ended at 40 percent, while Elon cooled off from its 50 percent clip in the first half ending the game at 43 percent. Neither team shot well from behind the arc with Elon going 5of-19 for 26 percent compared to WCU's 4-of-16 performance for 25 percent.
WCU yielded 14 points to Elon on nine first half turnovers, but settled down in the second half with only three turnovers for two Phoenix second half points. Elon was forced into 13 total turnovers leading to 12 points for WCU. Elon held an 11-7 advantage on second chance points in the first half, but again WCU narrowed that gap in the second half as the Elon finished the game with only a two-point advantage, 19-17, on second chance points.
Boggs poured in a game-high 18 points and collected eight rebounds for the Catamounts. King tallied his 17 points an efficient 7-of-8 shooting from the floor. The senior also made three of his four free throw attempts, while six of his ten rebounds came on the offensive end. Sinclair was the third Catamount in double-figures with 12 points. He also pulled down eight rebounds and passed out five assists.
Beaumont led the Phoenix with 16 points, nine of which came in the first half, and Isenbarger finished with 10 points. Beaumont also led Elon with eight boards.
With the win, WCU improves to 18-14 overall and picks up a win in the first game of the Southern Conference Tournament for the third straight year. The Catamounts advance to play No. 1 seed Davidson on Sunday, March 9 at 6 p.m.
Southern Conference Championship Quarterfinals: Western Carolina vs. Elon Game Notes
- Western Carolina improves to 18-14 overall ... The 18-win mark matches the 2010-11 final win total ...
- With the win, WCU wins its opening game of the Southern Conference Tournament for the fourth consecutive season ... The Catamounts improve to 3-0 over Elon in the Southern Conference Tournament ... WCU also moves to 21-34 overall in the tournament and 8-5 in quarterfinal games;
- WCU is now 40-46 against Elon.
- With his 17 points and 10 rebounds senior forward Tawaski King collects his first double-double of the season and seventh of his career ... It is also his second double-double in SoCon Tournament play after 20 points and 10 rebounds in the 2012 Championship Game against Davidson on February 5 ... His last double-double came 36 games ago on February 28, 2013 against Chattanooga when he scored 12 points and collected 12 rebounds.
- King's double-double was WCU's third double-double of the season.
- Looking ahead to WCU's semifinal matchup against No. 1 seed Davidson, the Catamounts are 20-41 all-time in 61 games against Davidson ... The Wildcats defeated the Catamounts, 78-60, in Cullowhee on January 23 in the only meeting between the two teams this season ... WCU is 4-3 in tournament action against Davidson with the Wildcats topping the Catamounts 93-91 in double overtime in the 2012 championship game;
- WCU is 3-8 in SoCon semifinal games ... WCU defeated UNCG 82-77 in the 2012 semifinal matchup - its last trim to the Southern Conference semifinals.