Dec. 6, 2003
Cullowhee, N.C. - All-American candidate Kevin Martin scored a game-high 27 points, while junior forward Lunzaya Nlandu pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds as Western Carolina (2-3) snapped a three-game losing streak to the UNC Asheville Bulldogs (1-5) Saturday night with an 81-70 victory at the Ramsey Activity Center in the Fourth Annual Asheville Citizen-Times Mountain Hoops Classic.
Martin, who had 17 points in the first half, was 8-of-16 from the field for the game, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range. He also made 9-of-12 free throws with two assists and two steals.
UNC Asheville's K.J. Garland made the first basket of the game at the 18:22 mark. Martin answered with a 3-pointer and Western never surrendered the lead the remainder of the contest. After leading by as many as eight early, thanks to another trey by Martin, UNCA trimmed its deficit to one, 14-13, on a Chad Mohn 3-pointer at the 10:41 mark. The game remained tight over the next four minutes with the Cats clinging to a 3-point lead (25-22) with 6:16 left before the break. Martin's steal and a layup sparked a 7-2 run, giving Western an eight-point edge (32-24) at the 2:26 mark. Thanks to a pair of free throws by Martin with five seconds left, Western would take an eight-point lead (36-28) at the break.
In addition to Martin's 17 points, Catamount senior forward Alex Osipovitch played well despite foul trouble. The Minsk, Belarus, native only scored two points in nine minutes, but had two assists, two steals and played solid defense.
Statistically, UNCA held the upper hand in the first 20 minutes, shooting 56.5 percent from the field and dominating the glass with a 17-9 rebound advantage. However, Western, who shot 46.7 percent from the field, made three more 3-pointers than the Bulldogs, and committed just six turnovers, compared to 15 UNCA turnovers. Western also was 3-of-6 from the free throw line, while the Bulldogs did not attempts a free throw.
Martin made the first basket of the second half to give WCU an 10-point lead, which is the cushion WCU virtually kept through the first six minutes. A pair of free throws by Joseph Barber, a jumper by Oliver Holmes and a basket in transition by Mohn, made it a five-point game (47-42) with 12:28 remaining. The teams kept it even over the next four minutes, with WCU leading by five (54-49) with 8:03 left. At that point, Martin contributed on nine straight WCU points, scoring five and handing out two assists, during a 9-1 run to give WCU a 13-point advantage (63-50) with 5:29 left. The Bulldogs would cut their deficit to 10 on three occasions inside the final 4:17, but could get not closer.
Western, who shot 50 percent from the field for the game, made 53.8 percent of its shots in the second half, while holding UNCA to just 36.7 percent shooting in the period . The Cats, who lead the SoCon in 3-point defense, allowed the Bulldogs to make just 3-of-19 (15.8 percent) from beyond the arc for the game, while WCU drained 6-of-14 from long range.
WCU senior guard Emre Atsur sparked Western's second half surge. He finished with a season-high 10 points, going 3-of-3 from the field and 4-of-4 at the line. Nlandu, a junior college transfer, had eight of his 11 rebounds in the second half, helping the Cats out-rebound the Bulldogs, 20-16, in the final 20 minutes. Nlandu just missed a double-double, scoring eight points on the evening. Freshman guard Kyle Greathouse logged his first career start, playing 33 minutes. He finished with a season-best six assists with zero turnovers, while scoring five points.
For UNCA, Mohn scored 16 points as he was one of five Bulldogs to score in double figures. Bryan McCullough recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Others to reach double figures were Garland, Holmes and Barber. UNCA 7-1, freshman center C.J. Walker added five blocked shots.
Western Carolina will have an eight day break for final exams before returning to action Dec. 15 at Wofford. Tip-off in Spartanburg, S.C., is set for 7 pm.