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Catamounts Visit Bulldogs to Open 2012-13 Season

Nov. 8, 2012

Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina opens its 2012-13 men's basketball season by visiting mountain-rival UNC Asheville on Friday night in non-conference action at the Kimmel Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm in the first-ever meeting between the Catamounts and Bulldogs at UNCA's year-old, on-campus facility.

Friday night's game will be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard locally on WWCU-FM, Power 90dot5 in Cullowhee; 540 AM WRGC in Sylva; and 920 AM WPTL in Canton; as well as online at

Western Carolina is coming off a season where it posted a 17-18 overall record, but finished with a flurry of wins in seven of its final eight games including four-consecutive victories to end the regular season and three to make a run to the Southern Conference Championship game. In dramatic fashion and before a packed house at the newly renovated U.S. Cellular Center, the Catamounts erased a 13-point deficit over the game's final 2:47, tying the game to force overtime on clutch free throws by since graduated senior Keaton Cole. WCU fell in double-overtime, just missing on what would have been a long, game-winning 3-pointer.

From that team, the Catamounts return two of the four players named to the SoCon All-tournament team in returning leading scorer in redshirt junior Trey Sumler and junior post Tawaski King.

UNC Asheville is likewise coming off a tremendous season in 2011-12. The two-time defending Big South Champions finished 24-10 a season ago, advancing to the NCAA Tournament where it nearly pulled off the upset of the Syracuse Orange before bowing out, 72-65.

The Bulldogs played one preseason exhibition, downing Brevard College, 91-60, as the returning redshirt Keith Hornsby led five in double figures with 18 points.

Western Carolina leads the all-time series with UNCA, 24-19, including winning last year's meeting, 86-67, in the Ramsey Center. The Bulldogs, however, have won 12 of the 21 meetings held in Asheville including the last two held in the previous venue, the Justice Center.

But to put it all in perspective, all told the last 10 meetings in the series are split evenly, 5-5.

Void of a senior, the WCU roster boast six juniors including the two aforementioned, as well as double-digit scorer, Brandon Boggs. The other three returning juniors are forward Preston Ross, guard Tom Tankelewicz and redshirt junior Josh Mendenhall, who was sidelined a season ago due to NCAA transfer regulations.

Larry Hunter, who is entering his eighth season on the WCU bench - and ranking 11th among active head coaches with 616 career victories - returns two sophomores in post Kenneth Hall and guard James Sinclair.

The Catamounts have a fresh crop of talented, incoming freshmen for 2012-13 that will be leaned upon throughout the season. Guards Mike Brown and Rhett Harrelson and post Torrion Brummitt have seen a lot of reps during early season practice, with guard Brandon Littlejohn and swing man Justin Browningexpected to factor into playing time.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm.

Western Carolina's "Catamount Central" for Friday night's season-opener at UNC Asheville is at Pack's Tavern (20 South Spruce Street, Asheville). The event runs from 5:00 pm until 6:30 pm ahead of the game's 7:00 pm tip-off. Come out in your PURPLE and cheer on your Cats!

WESTERN CAROLINA VS. UNC ASHEVILLE - THE SERIES:Mountain rivals Western Carolina and UNC Asheville meet for the 44th time on Friday night ... WCU leads the all-time series with the Bulldogs, 24-19, after last season's 19-point, 86-67, victory in Cullowhee ... the Catamounts trail in the series in Asheville, 9-12, including having lost back-to-back meetings in 2010 and 2008 both coming in the old venue, the Justice Center ... Friday's meeting marks the first-ever at UNCA's Kimmel Arena between the two squads ... The Nov. 9 meeting is the earliest between the two squads - and is just the fourth November meeting all-time with WCU holding a 2-1 edge in those games.

WCU VS. THE BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE:Western Carolina has played nine of the 10 schools of the Big South Conference; playing every school but Winthrop ... the Catamounts have a combined overall record of 103-93 against teams from the Big South, a number bolstered by 49 meetings against VMI which is a former SoCon member:

Charleston Southern, 9-4; Coastal Carolina, 2-4, Gardner-Webb, 5-6; High Point, 19-36; Liberty, 1-1; Presbyterian, 13-1; Radford, 2-2; UNC ASHEVILLE, 24-19; VMI, 29-20

- With complete records dating back to the 1945-46 season, Western Carolina is 37-29 in season openers which includes a 18-17 mark since joining the SoCon in 1977-78 ... Of that 18-17 record, the Catamounts are just 3-14 away from Cullowhee in season openers, including a 2-2 mark when the opener is played on a neutral court;

- Under head coach Larry Hunter, Western Carolina is 4-3 in season openers with two wins over Bowling Green in 2005-06 and `07-08, and also over UNC Asheville in 2006-07 in the Justice Center and at home in 2009-10 over St. Catharine College ... the three losses were at No. 2 UConn at the start of the 2008-09 season, at Clemson in 2010-11 and at South Carolina, 75-50, last year;

- This season's opening date of Nov. 9 ties for the second earliest start in program history, matching the Nov. 9, 2007 season-opener vs. Bowling Green in the Peggy Cronin Classic in Cincinnati ... the earliest opening day on record was the 1998-99 season opener on Nov. 4 at then No. 6 Maryland in College Park.

- Harouna Mutombo posted a double-double with 18 points and a career-high 13 rebounds to pace four Catamounts in double figures as Western Carolina surged past mountain-rival UNC Asheville, 86-67, in nonconference action in the Ramsey Center ... Mutombo scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the second half ... Brandon Boggs got the Catamounts off to a strong start with 14 first half points, finishing with 17 including a pair of 3-pointers ... Both Boggs and Mutombo dished out four assists apiece while Keaton Colecame off the bench to score 13 points for the Catamounts;

- WCU used a 14-to-0 run in the first half to take a double-digit lead in the opening 20 minutes. The Catamounts stretched the advantage to as many as 18 in the opening stanza on a Cole 3-pointer from the left wing, and carried a 15-point cushion at 40-25 into the halftime locker room ... All told, the Catamounts rallied from an early 9-7 deficit with a 26-to-7 run to build a 33-16 lead with 3:50 remaining before the half;

- The Bulldogs chipped away at WCU's lead early in the second half, trimming the deficit to nine, 44-35, just over three minutes into the final frame ... The closest the Bulldogs were able to pull was eight points on three separate occasions;

- Matt Dickey led UNCA with a game-high 23 points including 14 in the first half. Jeremy Atkinson added 16 points and Chris Stephenson recorded a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulldogs. Guard J.P. Primm, who scored 26 points in the previous year's 85-79 overtime game between the two, was held to just six points on 2-of-11 shooting.

- Western Carolina shot 54.4-percent (31-of-57) from the field for the game and 52.9-percent (9-of-17) from beyond the arc ... UNC Asheville shot just 38.6 percent (22-of-57) from the field and a dismal 18.8 (3-of-16) from long distance.

- Western Carolina opens its season on the road for a third-consecutive season ... the 2010-11 campaign opened with a road loss at Clemson with the 2012-13 season also beginning in the Palmetto State with a 75-50 road defeat at South Carolina;

- Including the opener at UNC Asheville, Western Carolina will play eight of its first nine games on the road including an international trip with two games at the Moon Palace Golf and Spa Resort in Cancun, Mexico ... All told, the Catamounts will only play three of their first 13 games of the 2012-13 season at home including a stretch of seven-straight away from Cullowhee Nov. 15 through Dec. 8 ... WCU played seven of its first eight away from home in 2011-12 and in 2010-11, the Catamounts played 13 of their first 15 away;

- Two Catamounts - Trey Sumler (13.0) and Brandon Boggs(12.5) have averaged double-digit scoring in games against UNCA;

- At the conclusion of the last season, Western Carolina won seven of its last eight games including a run to the Southern Conference Championship game ... In that title bout with Davidson, WCU erased a 13-point deficit over the final 2:47, tying the game on clutch free throws by Keaton Cole in the closing seconds to force overtime ... In the first extra session, Harouna Mutombodrained a pair of free throws and WCU got a defensive stop to force a second overtime ... At the end of double-overtime, Cole had a 3-point attempt from the top of the key rim out as Davidson won, 93-91 ... All told, WCU made all 16 free throw attempts including eight in bonus time in the thrilling final;

- Larry Hunter and the Catamounts return seven players from the 2011-12 squad including All-SoCon Tournament team selections in guard Trey Sumler and post Tawaski King... Void of a senior on the roster, the Catamounts boast six juniors, two sophomores and a group of five talented freshmen.

- Four of the top six leading scorers from a season ago are back led by Trey Sumler who averaged 13.5 points per game to rank second on the squad in 2011-12 ... Junior Brandon Boggs also averaged double-digit scoring at 10.0 ppg, while Tawaski Kingaveraged 7.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest last season.

WESTERN CAROLINA VS. UNC ASHEVILLE - FAMILIAR FACE:Current UNC Asheville men's basketball assistant coach and UNCA alum, Brett Carey, played one season at Western Carolina before transferring to Asheville ... Carey played in all of WCU's 27 games in 1997-98, scoring 44 points (1.6) while dishing out 56 assists, third on the team.