Dec. 20, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina plays its final road game of the 2012 calendar year as it returns to the hardwood Friday night against the University of Tennessee in front of a live television audience. Tip-off between the Catamounts and Volunteers in nonconference action from Thompson-Boling Arena is scheduled for 7:00 pm.
Friday's game will be televised by Fox Sports South with Dave Baker (play-by-play) and Larry Conley (color analyst) on the call. The game will also be broadcast on the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard locally on 540 AM WRGC in Sylva and online through Stretch Internet at CatamountSports.com.
The Catamounts and Volunteers meet for just the eighth time in men's basketball with Tennessee having claimed six of the seven previous meetings (6-1) - all in Knoxville. The Vols have a pair of three-game winning streaks sandwiched around the lone WCU victory - a seven-point, 78-71 win back in the 1993 season. That one won victory over UT is one of just two for WCU (2-35) all-time against current members of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) - the other coming on the road at Arkansas during the 2003 season.
This season, SoCon schools are 2-5 against the SEC with Elon defeating South Carolina and Davidson upending Vanderbilt.
Western Carolina (4-7) has struggled in finding victories in the month of December, entering Friday's game at 1-3 in the month. However, during that same stretch, all three losses have come on the road with the Catamounts having faced two nationally-ranked foes in Illinois and Georgetown. WCU had previously unbeaten Eastern Kentucky on the ropes before falling in the closing seconds by two, 72-70, and played with Illinois - now ranked 10th in the nation - right down to the wire before falling by eight, 72-64.
Redshirt junior guard Tom Tankelewicz has led the Catamounts in scoring in back-to-back games, establishing and breaking a career-high in both outings. The Apex, N.C., native led WCU over archrival Appalachian State with a then career-best 19 points, surpassing that with a career-high 24 at No. 15 Georgetown last Saturday on the strength of a career-best six made 3-pointers.
Tennessee (6-3) has won back-to-back games amidst its current six-game home stand at Thompson-Boling Arena, most recently downing Presbyterian at home, 78-62, Tuesday night to stretch its current home win streak to four. The Vols continue to hang their proverbial hat on defense. Tennessee has yet to allow an opponent score 70 points on the season, holding foes to an average of 57.9 points per game on just 39-percent shooting.
Countering UT's defense, WCU has reached the 70-point plateau in six of its 11 games to date and is shooting 44.3-percent from the field including 36.3-percent from beyond the arc, averaging just under eight treys per game (7.9).
Both teams have three players averaging double figures entering Friday's meeting - and both are led by guards with a name pronounced "Trey." WCU's Trey Sumler is scoring an average of 15.7 points per game, coming off the bench to tally 11 points in the second half against Georgetown while Trae Golden paces Tennessee at 13.6 ppg.
The two squads have three common opponents on the season - UNC Asheville, Georgetown and Wichita State. The Catamounts went 0-3 against the trio of schools while the Vols took two of the three, falling only to Georgetown in a low-scoring, 37-36, game in Washington, D.C.
Following Friday night's game, the Catamounts will break for the Christmas holiday, returning to action for just their third home date of the 2012-13 season with a New Year's Eve meeting with the Liberty Flames in the Ramsey Center.
Tip-off from Thompson-Boling is set for 7:00 pm.