AMHERST, Mass. - Freshmen Matt Halvorsen and Desmond Johnson combined for 35 of Western Carolina men’s basketball’s 76 points. Halvorsen led the squad with a career-high 18 points while Johnson also surpassed his previous career-best with 17 points. The Catamounts fell to UMass 85-76 after leading the majority of the opening 20 minutes. The game was WCU’s second of the 2017 Barclays Center Classic.
Halvorsen knocked down another three 3-pointers Tuesday night while going 7-of-9 at the charity stripe. Johnson was 4-of-6 from the field while knocking down his only three of the night at the final buzzer. The Memphis, Tenn., native did most of his damage at the free throw line where he converted 8-of-9 attempts. He also had five rebounds, a pair of assists, a block and a steal.
The loss drops WCU’s season record to just 1-4 while the Minutemen improved to 3-1 on the young season.
Senior Devin Peterson chipped in 15 points as he was 4-of-6 from the field and 6-of-7 at the free throw line. He also dished out four assists while grabbing a pair of rebounds. Junior Marc Gosselin added nine points on 4-of-6 shooting while grabbing three rebounds.
Senior Deriece Parks and Johnson tied for the team lead in rebounds with five. Parks added a point and two assists to his effort as well. Sophomore Adam Sledd added seven points off the bench as he went 3-of-4 from the field and 1-of-2 at the free throw line.
The Catamounts shot 47.9 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from 3-point range while the Minutemen posted a 45.8 field goal percentage and connected on 33.3 percent of their 3-point attempts.
UMass was nearly flawless at the free throw line knocking down 20-of-22 attempts for a 90.9 shooting percentage. The Catamounts made 24 of their 31 free throws to register a 77.4 percentage.
The Minutemen were led by Luwane Pipkins who scored 21 points while nailing five 3-pointers and dishing out 10 assists.
The Catamounts opened the game with a 17-10 run that was capped by a Peterson 3-pointer. WCU would hold onto the lead until the 6:04 mark of the opening half when a 3-pointer by UMass gave the Minutemen a 31-30 lead. The Catamounts would not tie or retake the lead the rest of the contest as the Minutemen used a 14-0 run to open up a 12-point advantage.
After trailing by seven at the half, WCU was able to cut the Minutemen lead to just one with 10:14 left to play as Johnson went on a one-man eight-point run to make the score 53-52. UMass slowly rebuilt a double-digit lead with just over six minutes remaining. A pair of Halvorsen free throw with 30 ticks left cut the deficit to six but that would be as close as WCU would get as the Minutemen went on to win 85-76.
WCU will now head to Niagara, N.Y., to compete in the Barclays Center Classic Regional at Niagara University. WCU will take on a talented Texas-Arlington squad Friday night at 7 pm before facing either Niagara or Alabama A&M on Saturday.