March 16, 2007
Cullowhee, N.C. - Sparked by an early 14-0 run and a season-best 54 first half points, the Western Carolina Lady Catamounts raced to a double-digit lead six minutes into the game and never let up, advancing to the second round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) with a 91-63 thrashing of the East Tennessee State Buccaneers in the Ramsey Center. Four Lady Cats scored in double-figures with five dishing out three-or-more assists in the win.
Western, which ran its school-record seasonal win tally to 24 over nine losses, travels to face the Virginia Tech Hokies (18-14), who garnered a WNIT first-round bye out of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Saturday, March 17. In addition to the power conference foe awaiting the Lady Cats - who have won 16 of their last 18 games on the year - there will also be a familiar face on the opposing sideline in former WCU skipper, Beth Dunkenberger, who compiled a 65-50 record in four seasons in Cullowhee.
Tip-off from the Cassell Coliseum is set for 7:00 pm.
"These girls were ready to play," said Western head coach Kellie Harper in the post-game gathering. "Just to be honest, they had been struggling through practice this week. The reason was they wanted to play. It showed, because they had high-energy today."
Junior guards Monique Dawson, Chevon Keith and Ashley Pellom highlighted Western's performance on Thursday night, combining for 36 points and 18 assists. Dawson led with a game-high tying 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting with seven assists and three steals. Pellom likewise dished out seven helpers, including a behind-the-back drop pass to Keith on a fast break that brought the nearly 2,000 purple and gold clad fans to their feet.
Keith finished with eight points and a team-best eight rebounds. Rounding out WCU's double-digit scorers was sophomore guard Lauren Powell, whose game-opening 3-pointer just nine seconds in to the game set the tone for the night. The Asheville, N.C., native chipped in 11 points, including three treys. Junior Jessika Johnson and sophomore Brooke Johnson each just missed double-figures with nine and eight points, respectively.
In a game that pitted two teams which less than a week earlier had fallen in its championship title match, Western seemed to shake the cob webs first. Tied at seven after the two traded lay-ups and a 3-pointer at the outset, Western held the Lady Bucs scoreless over the next four minutes while embarking on a 14-0 run to take a commanding, 21-7, advantage.
Three consecutive free throws by Devin Thompson pulled ETSU to within 11 at the 11:29 mark, but that was as close as the Buccaneers would get the remainder of the game, with Western leading 54-32, at halftime.
WCU shot a sizzling 61.8-percent (21-34) from the floor in the opening stanza while holding the Buccaneers to 21.1-percent (8-of-38). All told, the Lady Catamounts posted season-highs with 91 points scored, 35 field goals made, 74 field goals attempted, 56 rebounds and 26 assists.
Saturday's game will be broadcast by the Catamount Sports Network and can be heard in Western North Carolina on WWCU-FM, Power 90dot5 in Cullowhee or online at www.catamountsports.com.