The Western Carolina Catamount men’s basketball team picked up win number one Monday night as they defeated the Seahawks from St. Mary’s College, 75-68. The victory was also the first win for first-year head coach Steve Shurina.
Shurina was happy about notching his first win, but was happier for his players. “When I went in [the locker room], the guys had their heads down a little bit, but I told them it was a ‘W’. I couldn’t be any happier with the effort of these guys,” said Shurina.
Western Carolina fell behind 10-2 in the first five minutes of the game, but fought back and cut the lead to three at 13-10 at the 10:09 mark. They stayed in the game despite shooting 5-20 (25%) in the first ten minutes. The Cats took their first lead 18-17 at the 5:50 mark. The team maintained that lead and went in the locker room up 27-24.
Freshman Rans Brempong, who came into the game averaging seven points a game, was one rebound shy of having a double-double at half-time. He had ten points and pulled down eight rebounds in just 13 minutes of action in the first half.
The Cats came out on fire in the second half as they maintained their lead and extended it throughout the game. They outscored the Seahawks 23-13 in the first eight minutes of the half to take their biggest lead of the game at 50-37.
St. Mary’s fought back, however, and retook the lead 68-67 with 2:10 to play. Yet, the Cats made eight of their ten free throws in the last two minutes to seal the victory.
Although the score might have been closer than expected, Shurina felt it might have helped his team more. “Sometimes it is better to play a team like that, because you learn how to win close games,” Shurina said.
The Catamounts were led by Brempong, who had a career high 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds. He also had a game-high five blocks.
Shurina praised his young center for his performance not only in the win, but the overall season. “He works really hard,” Shurina said, “He by far has improved daily more than any other player I have coached.”
Brempong was just one of three Catamounts to score in double figures. Juniors Cory Largent and Willie Freeman each scored 19 and 15, respectively. Both players also pulled down eight boards.
The Seahawks were led by senior Harvey Davis who scored 20 points to go along with eight rebounds. Senior Brandon Jones was the only other player to score in double figures as he put in 14 points while going four-for-nine from three-point range.
The men’s team opened their home schedule last Tuesday against Lee University, but fell short 80-75 to the Flames.
The Cats took a 36-31 lead into the locker room and went up by as many as eight in the second half, but LU came back and led by ten at the 7:13 mark. The difference in the game came at the free throw line. Lee went 21-of-24 from the line in the second half alone.
Western was led by senior Corey Wells, as he poured in a team-high 18 points while pulling down six rebounds in the losing effort. Junior Casey Rogers chipped in with 14 points and dished off five assists.
Western Carolina will travel down to Littlejohn Coliseum Saturday as the Catamounts will do battle with the Clemson Tigers. The game will be televised on Fox SportSouth starting at 1pm.