Nov. 11, 2011
Columbia, S.C. - Harouna Mutombo and Trey Sumler paced the Catamounts with 11 points apiece on Friday night, but South Carolina put three players in double figures and scored 46 of its points in the paint in handing Western Carolina a 75-50 loss in the season-opener for both squads Friday night at the Colonial Life Arena.
The Gamecocks used a strong inside game to score the victory, out rebounding WCU, 37-29, and tallying 20 second-chance points. USC was also opportunistic in converting 19 Catamount turnovers into 22 points, employing an effective full-court press.
"I think South Carolina's length and size was definitely a factor tonight," said Hunter following the game during post-game comments. "I thought (South Carolina) got to us in different segments of the game with their press and built themselves little leads or had spurts off of their press. Certainly their offensive rebounding and their ability to control the paint area at both ends were key factors in the game."
In addition to his 11 points, Mutombo added a team-high eight rebounds while Sumler dished out four assists but committed five turnovers. Senior Keaton Cole chipped in eight points including a pair of 3-pointers with three of WCU's eight steals and three assists against while also committing five giveaways. Needing a boost on the interior, senior Sam Smithson added two blocked shots off the bench for the Catamounts.
South Carolina (1-0) used a game-high 14 points from Anthony Gill, who finished 6-of-7 from the floor in the win. Transfer Brenton Williams added 13 points and five steals off the bench, and Malik Cooke added 10 points as all 10 Gamecock players who played scored.
Neither team started strong from the floor as South Carolina missed six of its first seven shots while WCU was equally as cold from the field, misfiring on seven of its first nine offerings. The Gamecocks broke the fourth tie of the first half with eight-straight points coming mostly off its press defense to lead 16-8, prompting a Catamount timeout. After the stoppage, WCU got consecutive 3-pointers by Sumler and Cole with an offensive rebound slam dunk by Brandon Boggs knotting the game back at 16 on an 8-0 spurt for the purple and gold.
Boggs finished with seven points on 3-of-8 shooting.
South Carolina managed to stem the tide with three-straight buckets in the paint as a part of closing the opening half on a 19-to-9 run to lead by 10 at intermission, 35-25.
In the second half, the Gamecocks lead hovered in the teens with South Carolina answering each counter-punch by WCU. A fast-break dunk by R.J. Slawson pushed the margin to 20 for the first-time in the game and the Gamecocks would lead by as many as 27 in the final 20 minutes in handing the Catamounts their eighth-straight defeat in the all-time series (0-8).
Four Catamounts made their debut on Friday night as transfers Tom Tankelewicz and Dillon Dunford - both of whom sat out a season ago due to NCAA rules - got into the action with freshmen Kenny Hall and James Sinclair also seeing the court. Tankelewicz scored six points and pulled down four rebounds in his debut while Sinclair drained a mid-range jumper for his first collegiate points.
Western Carolina opens its home season next Tuesday, Nov. 15 as it hosts Montreat in the Ramsey Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm.