Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina closes the 2017 portion of its 2017-18 regular season on Saturday afternoon as the Catamounts travel to the McAlister Field House to open Southern Conference play against the high-scoring The Citadel Bulldogs. Tip-off of the SoCon-opener is scheduled for 1:00 pm.
Saturday's game can be heard on the Catamount Sports Network with a 12:30 pm pregame show ahead of the 1:00 pm tip. Fans can tune-in on 540 AM WRGC, The River in Sylva and online with streaming audio from Stretch Internet at CatamountSports.com. The Citadel's video production can be seen online at www.ESPN3.com or through the WatchESPN app.
Western Carolina and The Citadel have met 73 times on the men's basketball hardwood in a series that dates back to 1977. After sweeping both regular season meetings a year ago, the Bulldogs snapped WCU's three-game series win streak with a 78-72 win over the Catamounts in the opening round of last year's SoCon Championship. Despite the loss, Western Carolina has won 11 of the last 13 series meetings with The Citadel dating back to 2012 -- a stretch that included an eight-game win streak.
The Catamounts have won five-straight road games in the series played at the McAlister Field House.
Entering Saturday's meeting, WCU (4-8) looks to shake off a sluggish performance and bounce back from a disappointing 72-61 home loss to the High Point Panthers that came just two days removed from its first victory away from Cullowhee in an impressive, 76-72, victory over Big South Conference favorite, UNC Asheville, at the U.S. Cellular Center. The Catamounts are 3-3 over their past six games with wins over Alabama A&M and mountain-rivals Appalachian State and UNC Asheville.
Three Catamounts enter league play averaging double-digit scoring including redshirt senior Deriece Parks at 11.3 points per game -- 18th in the SoCon -- while squad newcomers in freshman Matt Halvorsen (10.1 ppg) and junior post Mike Amius (10.0 ppg) also scoring at a double-digit clip.
The Citadel (5-7) enters league play with the top-scoring offense in the Southern Conference at 87.2 points per game -- a mark that ranks the Cadets 15th nationally. Conversely, the Bulldogs rank last in the in the league in scoring defense, surrendering an average of 90.0 points per game, a statistic that ranks The Citadel 350th out of 351 NCAA Division I teams.
The Bulldogs have two Division-I victories including a pair of two-point wins including a 79-77 road win over common foe, High Point, and a win over James Madison, 84-82. Freshman Tariq Simmons paces the `Dogs in scoring at 13.2 points per game, eighth in the league, while junior Matt Frierson is 20th overall in the SoCon at 10.8 ppg that includes averaging three 3-pointers made per game. Defensively, The Citadel paces the SoCon with just under 12 steals per game, while also leading the conference in turnover margin at +5.67.
Amidst his third season at the helm in Charleston, the Bulldogs are led by former WCU assistant coach, Duggar Baucom, who was on the Catamount bench for three seasons. He is assisted by another former Catamount coach in Associate Head Coach Daniel Willis, who followed Baucom from VMI to the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Willis earned his Master's Degree from WCU after two seasons as a graduate assistant coach, spending a third year as a full-time assistant before making the move to Lexington, Va., with Baucom.
Saturday's game is the first of three-straight league road games for the Catamounts to open the squad's conference slate. WCU travels to Chattanooga (Jan. 4) and Samford (Jan. 6) in SoCon play in the first of the New Year.
All told, conference play opens in full-force on Saturday with four games on the docket. In addition to the Catamounts-Bulldogs match-up, Furman travels to VMI, Wofford visits UNCG, and Chattanooga heads to Birmingham, Ala., to face Samford in the night cap. A fifth conference match-up slated for the final day of the calendar year on as ETSU visits Mercer on Sunday afternoon in the final SoCon game of 2017.