Feb. 13, 2012
GREENVILLE, S.C. -Western Carolina women's basketball (11-14, 6-10 Southern Conference) gutted out a win, on the back of their oppressive defensive pressure, defeating the Furman Paladins (12-12, 8-7 SoCon) 51-48, in overtime, Monday at Timmons Arena.
Senior guard Kaila'Shea Menendez led all scorers with 23 points, but there is no question the final seven points she scored in the game were the most important. Menendez scored all of Western Carolina's points in the five minute overtime, hitting one field goal and going 5-of-6 from the charity stripe.
It was the Catamounts' fourth consecutive win, the most wins in a row since Western Carolina started the season, in November 2011, 4-0. Western Carolina earned its first series split, as Furman won in Cullowhee 57-54, and the third straight road win for the Catamounts.
The win against the Paladins was accomplished through grit, through execution and plain and simple heart. Sophomore forward Alex Abraham was the epitome of the Catamounts' ever increasing heart, as she calmly drained two free throws, with eight seconds left in regulation, to tie the game at 44.
Western Carolina, who had led since the 19:39 mark in the first half when Menendez hit a three-pointer to put the Catamounts up 3-2, found itself trailing late in the second half. With 30 seconds left in the game, Furman's Regan Thompson drained a three-pointer to give the Paladins' only their second lead in the game, 44-42.
With less then 10 seconds left, Menendez missed a jumper and Abraham ripped down the rebound. She attempted the put-back, but was fouled, setting up the game-tying free throws.
In the stat sheets the overtime belonged to Menendez. Her seven extra period points, along with a monster blocked shot of Furman's Thompson's three-point attempt, which if she had hit would have cut the Catamounts' four-point lead to one with 12 seconds left, was a key component in the game. But the hustle stats can be laid at the feet of Diamond Hunnicutt and Janae' McKinney who continued what they had done all game, hustle for rebounds and loose balls. McKinney ended the game with six rebounds and four steals, Hunnicutt also had six rebounds and had two steals.
Western Carolina ran Furman ragged in the first half, building a 12 point lead into halftime, 29-17.
The Catamounts struggled in the second half, offensively, and had to rely on their defensive pressure to stay in the game. Furman out-scored Western Carolina 27-15 in the second half, as WCU hit just four field goals and shot 18.2 percent from the field. Western Carolina stayed in the game by hitting 6-of-8 free throws.
Western Carolina also kept the ball on its side of the court, pulling down 21 offensive rebounds for a total of 39 in the game. Furman had just 13 offensive rebounds and ended the game with a total of 35.
The Catamounts had 14 steals in the game, scoring 21 points off Furman miscues. WCU also had five blocks in the game. Shauna Terry added two blocks and is is now tied for 10th place for blocks in a career with 61.
Eight of the 11 Western Carolina players who saw action score in the game. Along with Mendendez's 23 points, Hunnicutt added nine and Makensey Campbell poured in eight.
Western Carolina returns for a three-game home stand beginning Saturday February 18 hosting Chattanoga. Tip-time in the Ramsey Center is set for 2 p.m.