April 4, 2005
Cullowhee, N.C. -
The Western Carolina department of athletics has named freshman golfer Matt Cook (men's golf) and senior forward Jennifer Gardner (women's basketball) its Arby's/Catamount Student-Athletes of the Month for March.
Cook (Murphy, N.C.) brought home the medalist honors at the Tusculum Invitational on March 5-6 in Greeneville, Tenn., in just the second event of his collegiate career. He fired a tournament-best 69 on the final day to card a 36-hole total of 143 (one over par) to help the Catamounts place second as a team. Cook's victory was just the eighth individual title for a Western Carolina golfer dating back to the 1984-85 season. A week later, Cook finished tied for first after 36-holes at the Winthrop Waterford Invitational carding a pair of 71's for a two-day total of 142. Despite falling in the playoff, Cook became the fourth Catamount to finish regulation play as the leader and his final score stands as the seventh-best, 36-hole score in WCU history.
Cook finished up the successful month finishing seventh at the Furman Intercollegiate in Greenville, S.C., by firing 70 in the first two rounds, capped off by a 75 on the final 18 for a three-day count of 215. Cook's score ranks fourth on Western's all-time 54-hole total.
Gardner (Norcross, Ga.) nearly averaged a double-double in the five games played the month of March which included four games in the Southern Conference Championship and the NCAA first round meeting with the Tennessee Lady Vols.
She began the month by scoring 23 points and pulling down nine rebounds in the opening round victory over the Wofford Terriers in the SoCon tournament. Against the third-seeded Furman Lady Paladins, Gardner tallied 22 points and matched her first-day rebounding performance, securing nine. In the semifinals versus the second-seeded Davidson Wildcats, Gardner was limited to 17 points, but recorded her first double-double of the month with 12 boards, including five on the offensive end.
Yet, her best career performance came in the championship game, scoring a career-high 45 points and boarding 13 rebounds in 37 minutes of action as the Lady Catamounts captured the SoCon title to earn the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. Through four days, Gardner averaged 26.5 points and 10.8 rebounds to not only earn first-team All-SoCon Tournament honors, but also garner the championship's Most Outstanding Player award.
Gardner concluded her outstanding Western career ranked in the top 10 in seven statistical categories. She scored 1,362 points for her career to rank eighth, and pulled down 890 rebounds to rank third on that WCU list. Gardner is only one of three Western Carolina players to ever score over 1,000 and tally 800-or-more rebounds in a career, joining the likes of Brenda Johnson (1974-77) and Emily Holliday (1983-86). Her 7.6 rebounds per game average ranks her fourth all-time. From the charity stripe, Gardner set a Western record by connecting on 444 free throws during her career on 564 attempts for 78.7-percent, both of which rank second in the WCU record books.
Last season, Gardner recorded 295 rebounds to rank third on the top single-season list, one board shy of tying Johnson for second. She also set the record for free throws made during a season, netting 147 of her fifth-place 184 attempts, which gave her a team-best 79.9-percent from the charity stripe, the seventh-highest ever at Western.