CULLOWHEE, N.C. - The Western Carolina men's basketball team picked up its first win of the season Wednesday night inside the friendly confines of the Ramsey Center. In what looked on paper to be a lopsided match-up between the NCAA Division I Catamounts and the NCCAA Tigers of Hiwassee turned out to be quite the contest for nearly 34 minutes until the Catamounts pulled away late. Senior Devin Peterson scored a game-high 15 points while dishing out six assists, grabbing six rebounds and making a team-high four steals.
The Tigers were helped out by 50 missed shots from the Catamounts but it was not enough to pull the upset. WCU used a dominating 54-37 advantage on the boards to make up for the missed opportunities and the Catamounts limited their turnovers to just seven for the contest including only one in the second half.
The win moves WCU's record to 1-2 on the season while the Tigers fell to 6-2 after a stellar start to the year.
Junior Marc Gosselin added a double-double to the Catamount effort as he scored 13 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. He added an assist and a team-high two blocks as well. Senior Deriece Parks who made his first appearance of the season in the starting lineup finished with 12 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Freshman Matt Halvorsen also made the first start of his career Wednesday night and finished with 11 points and two rebounds. The rookie knocked down three 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes.
The other Catamount starter was junior Mike Amius who finished with seven points and three rebounds in just 11 minutes of action. Senior Haboubacar Mutombo added eight points off the bench while sophomore Adam Sledd chipped in five points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore Maurice Smith nearly picked up double-digit rebounds but finished with nine off the bench.
WCU shot just 36.7 percent from the field, 28.0 percent from three and 47.8 percent from the charity stripe. Hiwassee on the other hand connected on 45.3 percent of its shots, 28.6 percent from three and just 27.3 percent from the free throw line.
WCU collected 27 offensive rebounds which led to 23 second chance points. The Catamounts also dominated the paint out-scoring the Tigers 42-22 in the post.
Hiwassee was led by Dess Culpepper who finished with a team-high 12 points. Tevin Henry added 10 points and eight rebounds while three others had seven or more points in the loss.
The Catamounts led by as many as nine points in the opening period but a 12-5 run by the Tigers to end the half cut that lead to just two as time expired, 30-28.
The second half began with a 4-0 Hiwassee run which gave the Tigers their first lead of the second period. The Tigers would eventually relinquish the lead with 13:04 remaining in the period as Sledd hit a layup to put WCU ahead 42-40.
WCU would build the lead up to six but the Tigers would not go away as a layup by Dess Culpepper tied the game at 52 with 7:20 left. The score sparked a 13-0 run by the Catamounts which blew the game open with just over four minutes left in the contest. WCU would continue to push and eventually took its largest lead of the game at 76-57 with 23 seconds left. Hiwassee would not score in the final 30 seconds as WCU took its first victory of the season.
WCU will be back in action this Sunday, Nov. 19 as the Catamounts travel to No. 14/15 Minnesota for a 4:30 pm contest which will air nationally on Fox Sports 1.