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Second Half Push Paces Catamounts Past Mountaineers, 70-64

Dec. 8, 2012

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Cullowhee, N.C. - Tom Tankelewicz led four Catamounts in double figures with a career-high 19 points including five made 3-pointers as Western Carolina erased a 13-point second half deficit to rally past archrival Appalachian State, 70-64, Saturday afternoon in Southern Conference action in the Ramsey Center.

The win snaps a two-game slide for the Catamounts while giving WCU a 2-0 start in SoCon play with a key North Division victory. With the loss, Appalachian State was relegated to its seventh-straight defeat, dropping to 1-7 and 0-1 in league play to open 2012-13.

Western Carolina (4-6, 2-0 SoCon) trailed by 13 points following a Jamaal Trice jumper at the 16:57 mark of the second half - the largest lead of the game for either squad. The Catamounts used a 10-to-2 spurt to close to within five points, 45-40, four minutes later only to see ASU stretch the advantage back out to nine.

WCU continued to chip away at the Mountaineer advantage, tying the game for the third time on a jumper in the paint by Tawaski King with six and a half minutes to play. King's two made free throws at the five minute mark gave the Catamounts their first lead of the second half - and the first since the five minute mark of the opening 20 minutes.

Trice again handed the advantage back to the Mountaineers with a triple from the right wing just inside the four minute mark. However, the Catamounts reclaimed the lead for what proved to be the final time at the 2:51 mark on a 3-pointer by Tankelewicz, making it 61-60, WCU.

Leading by just two points, 66-64, following a dunk by Jay Canty, Western Carolina got a second chance after an offensive rebound that rolled out-of-bounds off a Mountaineer defender. On the ensuing possession, Trey Sumler fed Tankelewicz in the right corner where the Apex, N.C., native buried a back-breaking 3-pointer, making it a five-point game with Sumler added a free throw at the 11-second mark to provide the final tally.

Tankelewicz paced WCU with 19 points including five 3-pointers that matched his career-best. King finished with 14 points and a team-best eight rebounds while Sumler chipped in 13 points including seven from the charity stripe after struggling from the floor (3-for-10). Sumler did add a game-high three steals including a crucial theft and a dribble drive that split two ASU defenders for an old-fashioned 3-point play during WCU's decisive second half run.

Sophomore James Sinclair rounded out the four in double figures with 12 points, adding seven rebounds, two assists and a steal while Brandon Boggs scored eight off the bench, pulling down five boards.

Appalachian State jumped out to an early lead over Western Carolina in the opening 20 minutes before the Catamounts found their offensive groove. Down 16-11, the Catamounts used a 12-to-3 run to erase the deficit and claim a four-point edge of their own. Four different WCU players scored during the surge including five-straight points from Sinclair to cap the run.

The Mountaineers managed a run of their own, though, outscoring Western Carolina 16-to-2 over the final 5:19 of the first half to carry a 10-point, 36-26, lead into the halftime locker room. During the Apps' run, the Catamounts turned the ball over three times and went 0-for-6 from the floor.

Canty, the second-leading scorer in the SoCon, paced the Mountaineers with a game-high 22 points and three assists while Nathan Healy scored 15 and pulled down a game-best nine rebounds. Tab Hamilton rounded out the trio of ASU players in double figures with 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting including 1-for-4 from beyond the arc.

Western Carolina now takes its longest break of the season to date for final exams, returning to action next Saturday, Dec. 15 against nationally-ranked Georgetown in Washington, D.C. Scheduled for a Noon tip-off, the game will be televised on MASN and ESPN3. It is the first-ever meeting between the Catamounts and the Hoyas.

Western Carolina vs. Appalachian State - Post-Game Notes:
- Western Carolina evened its all-time record against Appalachian State in Cullowhee to 41-41 with its third-straight victory over the arch-rival Mountaineers in the Ramsey Center ... WCU trails in the all-time series, 67-111, after winning the 178th meeting all-time - the longest active series for both schools ... Saturday's meeting was the earliest between WCU and ASU since a Dec. 1, 1984 meeting in Charlotte;

- Saturday's game was the first home date for WCU since downing Mars Hill in the Ramsey Center on Nov. 11 ... the Catamounts have won 48 of their last 57 (.842) home games including 32 of their last 39 (.821) against Southern Conference opponents ...

- With the win - No. 620 for WCU head coach Larry Hunter - Western Carolina opens its Southern Conference schedule at 2-0 for the second-straight season - and the fifth time in Hunter's eight seasons in Cullowhee;

- Tom Tankelewicz led the Catamounts with a career-high 19 points ... He matched his career-best with five made 3-pointers ... It is the fourth time in his career that he's drained five triples in a single game;

- Junior post Tawaski King stretched his career-long, double-digit scoring streak to 11-straight games including all 10 games of the 2012-13 season ... King finished with 14 points and a team-best eight rebounds;

- Western Carolina limited ASU to 26.3-percent from beyond the arc ... On the season the Catamounts are holding foes to just 29.1-percent from long-range.