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Second Half Scoring Drought Dooms Catamounts; Fall at No. 23 Clemson, 79-57

Dec. 23, 2009

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Clemson, S.C. - Brandon Giles connected on a lay-up in the lane that pulled Western Carolina to within five points, 56-51, at the 8:48 mark of the second half on Tuesday night after having trailed by as many as 14 points to 23rd-ranked Clemson.

However, the senior's scoop shot was followed by an eight-minute WCU scoring drought as Clemson (11-2) scored 19-straight points during the decisive second half run that enabled it to pull away from the Catamounts for the 79-57 win Tuesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.

"I didn't think we were as consistent as we needed to be tonight," said WCU head coach Larry Hunter following his squad's first loss in 34 consecutive days, snapping its nine-game winning streak. "We did not rebound well and had some breakdowns on defense that really hurt us. I thought we came out well in the second half; we had a lot of good open looks, but just stopped hitting the shots late. I also think we just didn't get as much production from the others like we needed to. Our attention to detail was not sharp tonight."

Harouna Mutombo scored Western Carolina's first 12 points including consecutive 3-pointers to open the game and prompting Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell to call a quick timeout. Mutombo finished with a season-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Giles was the only other Catamount reach double-figure scoring with 12 points, dishing out a season-best four assists, while Richie Gordon finished with eight points.

Entering the game tied with WCU Hall of Famer, Henry Logan, atop the school's career steals chart, senior Brigham Waginger - who set the school's single-season steals record a year ago - swiped two in the loss to move into sole possession of first place. His record-breaking steal came at the 12:34 mark of the first half as the South Webster, Ohio, native picked David Potter's pocket near mid-court.

Trevor Booker scored a season-high 31 points to lead four Tigers in double figures with his younger brother, Devin, adding 10 - both one shy of their respective career highs - in the win, Clemson's fourth-straight. The elder brother, Trevor, also blocked four shots and pulled down a game-high seven rebounds. Also reaching double digits for Clemson were Tanner Smith with 13 and Demontez Stitt with 10.

Behind Mutombo's hot start, Western Carolina (10-2) raced out of the gates for its largest lead of the game at six points early in the first half. But the Tigers responded with a 9-to-2 spurt to pull ahead by five, 19-14, setting off a see-saw affair.

Junior Anthony Phillip, making his first appearance for the purple and gold on Tuesday night, buried his first points on a 3-pointer with 3:20 remaining in the first half to close the margin to two, 31-29. Yet, the Tigers used a 12-to-3 scoring spurt which featured 12-straight points to close the half and take a 43-32 lead into the locker room.

The Catamounts used an early run in the second half to cut into the Clemson lead, with Richie Gordon's layup with 13:32 remaining pulling Western Carolina to within four at 49-45. Nearly five minutes later, Giles hit a layup with 8:48 remaining to make the score 56-51, and from there the Bookers took over, combining for 14 of Clemson's 19-straight points that put the game out of reach.

During the decisive run, WCU committed three turnovers that directly led to six Tiger points, and also missed seven-straight 3-point attempts before Mutombo drained a trey at the 1:06 mark.

Clemson was credited with 10 blocked shots in the game including four by Booker and five by Jerai Grant.

Western Carolina will break for the holiday before returning to the hardwood on Wednesday, Dec. 30 as it hosts mountain-rival, UNC Asheville in a inter-conference showdown in the Ramsey Center. Tip-off for the afternoon matinee is set for 2:00 pm.

Post-Game Notes:
- Tuesday night's loss snaps Western Carolina's overall nine-game winning streak and also breaks its string of four-consecutive road victories ... It was also WCU's first loss on a Tuesday, evening the seasonal record at 1-1 and 4-4 all-time under head coach Larry Hunter;

- The loss relegates WCU to 0-10 all-time against the Clemson Tigers and 0-9 lifetime at Littlejohn Coliseum;

- Senior Brigham Waginger became Western Carolina's all-time leader in career steals, breaking his tie atop the all-time ledger with WCU Hall of Famer, Henry Logan ... Waginger finished with two thefts in the loss giving him the current school record at 223;

- Senior Jake Robinson made one 3-pointer on Tuesday night giving him 222 for his career leaving him 22 made treys shy of WCU all-time leader, Anquell McCollum who made 245 from 1993-96;

- Clemson shot a WCU opponent season-high 60-percent (29-of-48) from the floor in the win, the best shooting percentage for a Catamount opponent since the College of Charleston shot 63-percent (26-of-41) back on Feb. 11, 2009;

- Clemson made more free throws (16) than Western Carolina attempted (7) on Tuesday night ... the Tigers shot just 50-percent (16-of-32) from the charity stripe while WCU finished 4-of-7 (57.1%).