Nov. 26, 2010
Williamsburg, Va. -
Mike Williams led four Catamounts in double figures with 16 points, 14 of which came in the second half, but clutch free throw shooting in the closing minutes for Mercer led the Bears to a 71-66 win over Western Carolina in the sub-regional round of the Legends Classic Friday evening at the Kaplan Arena.
A layup from Williams with 47 seconds remaining in regulation pulled WCU back to within a point, 66-65, but the Bears hit 7-of- 8 free throws down the stretch to seal the win, snapping a three-game slide. It also halted WCU's three-game winning streak in the head-to-head series.
"I thought overall tonight, we played young, played inexperienced," said WCU head coach Larry Hunter during post-game comments on the Catamount Sports Network. "With some of their traps and some of the things they were doing defensively, they sped us up to where we weren't making good decisions. And then, they hit big free throws down the stretch as we were trying to lengthen the game by fouling."
Williams, who was saddled with foul trouble most of the second half, was joined in double figures by freshman Brandon Boggs with a career-best 12 points and seven rebounds, with junior Keaton Cole and senior Richie Gordon chipping in 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Bears were paced by the double-double effort of Brian Mills who finished with a career-high 21 points and 11 rebounds. Jeff Smith added 18 points with Mark Hall scoring 10 off the bench.
Neither team was able to ever pull away from the other in a game that saw nine lead changes and the score tied a combine eight times. The largest lead for either squad was just six points - WCU in the first half and Mercer after intermission.
A fast-break dunk by Harouna Mutombo
and pair of free throws by Cole midway through the opening 20 minutes gave the Catamounts a six-point, 17-11, lead. However, it was quickly erased by a 9-0 spurt by Mercer to give the designated visiting team a three-point lead, carrying a one-point, 29-28, lead into the break.
Gordon gave the Catamounts what proved to be their final lead of the game, tipping in missed field goal at the 16:11 mark of the second half, but Mills answered with an offensive rebound tip-in on the ensuing possession and Hall buried a 3-pointer at the 14:55 mark to hand the Bears the lead for good, 39-36.
A pair of Cole free throws with six and a half minutes showing on the game clock knotted the game at 50 marking the eighth tie of the contest. WCU was able to pull to within a point four times inside the final three minutes, but the Bears responded from the free throw line to pull out the win.
Western Carolina continues play in the Legend's Classic on Saturday afternoon against in-state foe, Gardner-Webb, with tip-off slated for 3:30 pm. The Runnin' Bulldogs fell by one, 56-55, on Friday night to the host William & Mary Tribe to drop their second-straight game, falling to 3-3 overall. WCU trails in the all-time series with the Runnin' Bulldogs, 5-6, but won last year's meeting 75-59 in Boiling Springs.
Saturday's game will be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network with air-time of 3:00 pm.