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Catamounts Drop Season-Opener at UNC Asheville, 71-61

Tawaski King finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds in the season-opener at UNC Asheville. (Photo by Ashley Evans)

Nov. 9, 2012

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Asheville, N.C. - UNC Asheville's Jeremy Atkinson posted a double-double of a career-high 24 points and 11 rebounds as the Bulldogs handed Western Carolina a 71-61 setback Friday night in nonconference action at the Kimmel Arena in both squad's season opener.

The loss was the third-straight for WCU against their mountain-rival in games played in Asheville, and the first-ever meeting in UNCA's Kimmel Arena.

Atkinson's performance overshadowed a career-night for WCU redshirt junior Tom Tankelewicz. Making his first start for the Purple & Gold, the Apex, N.C., native buried a career-best five 3-pointers en route to a career-high 15 points to lead three Catamounts in double figures.

Junior post Tawaski King recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds including six on the offensive end, while Trey Sumler finished with a solid stat line, scoring 11 points with five assists and three steals. Junior Brandon Boggs struggled from the field, shooting 3-for-13, but managed nine points, four rebounds and a pair of steals.

Western Carolina (0-1) led early, taking control of the see-saw affair with seven-straight points to break a 9-9 tie in the first 10 minutes of the game. The seven-point spurt put WCU ahead by its game-high margin of six points, 16-10. The Bulldogs rallied, though, quickly erasing the deficit and taking the lead three times throughout the remainder of the opening stanza.

Tied at 30 in the closing second of the first half, Sumler made an up-and-under circus shot at the buzzer to give the Catamounts a two-point, 32-30, advantage at intermission. Tankelewicz and Sumler both scored nine first half points. WCU led despite UNCA shooting 52-percent against 32-percent for the Catamounts.

UNC Asheville (1-0) used a 12-to-3 run to start the second half to erase the two-point deficit and pull ahead, 42-35 - a lead it would never relinquish down the stretch. The Bulldogs pulled out by as many as 10 points midway through the half, but were unable to put WCU away.

The Catamounts clawed back to within six points on three separate occasions inside the final seven minutes, but were unable to find the defensive stop and subsequent score to cut further into the Bulldog advantage.

Down six at the 6:37 mark, Atkinson found room on the low block for a lay-up to again push UNCA ahead by eight. Two minutes later, a slam dunk by King again pulled the game to within two possessions at 63-57. However, an offensive rebound after a missed 3-pointer gave the ball back the Bulldogs and Trent Meyer converted a lay-up to again stretch the margin.

All told, WCU was outscored 41-29 in the second half. The Bulldogs managed to shoot 46.2-percent for the game against 31.8-percent for the Catamounts. UNCA outscored WCU in the paint, 46-to-28 and converted a 47-to-40 edge on the glass into a 20-to-14 advantage in second-chance points.

In addition to Atkinson's play, post D.J. Cunningham added 12 and nine boards to go along with three blocks for the Bulldogs while Will Weeks scored 13 points with six rebounds off the bench for UNCA.

Western Carolina returns to Cullowhee to open the home portion of its 2012-13 schedule on Sunday night against the Mars Hill Lions. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm.