GREENVILLE, SC – The Western Carolina Catamounts fought for 35 of the allotted 40 minutes, but a 20-2 run by the Furman Paladins ended their two-game winning streak, 67-47 Monday night from Timmons Arena.
WCU fell to 4-18 overall and a game back from other conference teams at 2-7. Furman, who has, surprisingly, struggled this season, improved to 8-10 overall and 3-6 against Southern Conference opponents.
The Catamounts were led by junior Willie Freeman, who tallied 14 points on five-of-nine shooting; he also pulled down six boards. Guard Casey Rogers was the only other Cat to reach double figures, pouring in 11 against the tough Paladin defense. Rogers also added a team-high seven assists in the losing effort.
Freshman Rans Brempong pulled down 11 boards and swatted four shots, but could only manage four points against the Paladins interior defense.
The team’s leading scorer, junior Cory Largent, was limited to three of 14 shooting for seven points, six rebounds, and four assists in the loss.
Western Carolina kept the game close through the first half despite only shooting 32 percent from the floor. Furman would push its advantage to as many as eight in the first half, but the Catamounts would answer.
Furman led by two, 27-25, at the half.
The second half was a mirror image of the first with the exception of a brief, one-point WCU advantage. With 4:40 remaining in the contest, the Cats pulled to within two at 47-45. However, a 20-2 run over the final minutes put the game away for FU.
WCU was outscored 40-22 in the second half and was limited to 27 percent shooting from the floor. The taller Paladins also held a 43-39 advantage on the boards.
Saturday night, in front of nearly 2,000 fans, the Catamounts used their season-high field goal percentage (56 percent), including a blistering 71 percent from behind the three-point arc, to race out to the 82-62 win over the Keydets of Virginia Military Institute.
The win avenged the one-point setback the Cats were handed in Lexington earlier in the season. It was also WCU’s second-straight 20-point or more margin of victory.
Cory Largent led the attack, posting his second-straight double-double, finishing with 22 points and 10 boards. Largent was eight of 16 shooting from the floor.
Willie Freeman added 15 on a perfect six-for-six shooting night with senior Ricky Gandy scoring 13 and tieing his career-high in rebounds with eight.
Junior Casey Rogers and sophomore Kori Hatcher both added nine points in the win. Rogers also added seven rebounds and five assists on the night.
Freshman Emre Atsur poured in eight points of his own including a perfect performance behind the three-point arc.
VMI took a seven-point, 29-22, lead midway through the first half. However, the Cats answered with a 13-0 run to take the lead 33-29 and took a 38-33 advantage into the break.
The Keydets turned up the defensive intensity at the start of the second half, tying the game up at 47 with 14 minutes remaining in regulation. However, after figuring out the VMI press the Cats were able to pull away from the undermanned Keydets for the win.
For the game, between the two teams, there were 49 fouls called.
Western Carolina travels to Johnson City, TN to tangle with the Bucs on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. The Cats return home Monday night when arch-rival Appalachian State comes to the Ramsey Center for a 7 p.m. tip. The WCU athletic department is sponsoring WWF night following the contest.