ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Freshman Marcus Thomas and junior transfer Mike Amius teamed up to score 40 points for the Western Carolina men's basketball team Sunday afternoon as the Catamounts defeated longtime mountain rival UNC Asheville 76-72 in the 2017 Asheville Mountain Classic played inside the U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Asheville. Thomas, who had scored two previous career points coming into Sunday's contest, exploded for 21 points while hitting seven of his 11 shot attempts including a pair of 3-pointers. Amius, who was held to just two points in the opening half, came back with 17 points in the second stanza to finish with 19 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
WCU trailed by as many as eight points Sunday afternoon and played from behind for just over 26 minutes. With just over nine minutes to play in the game the Bulldogs of UNC Asheville held a 56-48 lead. The Catamounts began their comeback with a pair of free throws by junior Marc Gosselin which sparked an 11-0 run by WCU. The Catamounts would not trail from that point on as they held off the feisty Bulldogs down the stretch.
The game looked to be in hand after a dagger of a 3-pointer by senior Deriece Parks with 1:54 left which gave WCU a six-point lead but UNCA quickly cut the deficit to just one on a jumper followed by a three with just over a minute remaining. Senior Devin Peterson found Amius down low for a dunk on WCU's next possession and the junior big man was fouled on the play for an old-fashioned 3-point play which made it a two-possession contest with 39 ticks on the clock.
UNCA converted a layup with 30 seconds left but Parks knocked down his two free throws on WCU's next possession to keep the lead at four. The Bulldogs responded with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to just one with 18 seconds remaining and chose to play solid defense rather than foul for the early part of the possession. WCU took advantage and used smart passing to find Amius for another monstrous slam and foul for his second 3-point play late in the game.
The win moves WCU's record to 4-7 on the season while the Bulldogs of UNCA dropped to 6-5 on the year.
Parks joined Amius and Thomas in double-figures as he scored 16 points whule grabbing five rebounds. The senior nailed three 3-pointer in the victory and was a perfect 3-of-3 at the free throw line. Gosselin also scored in double-digits with 11 points and four rebounds.
Senior Devin Peterson came off the bench to dish out a team-high six assists while Thomas led the team with three steals.
Ahmad Thomas led a trio of double-figure scorers for UNCA with 17 points.
UNC Asheville shot 47.0 percent from the field but just 19.2 percent from 3-point range while the Catamounts knocked down 45.5 percent of their shots and 40.0 percent from long range. The major difference came at the free throw line where WCU hit 18-of-24 attempts while the Bulldogs had just nine attempts including five makes.
The Catamounts will have a short turnaround as WCU hosts High Point Tuesday night at 7 pm inside the Ramsey Center. The Panthers fell to Wofford in the opening game of the 2017 Asheville Mountain Invitational, 70-57.