Catamounts Open Season with Pair of Home Wins

Western’s basketball squad kicked off the 2001-2002 campaign with wins over Toccoa Falls and Tennessee Wesleyan in the Ramsey Center, while falling to Coastal Carolina on the road.

Monday night, WCU (2-1) set school several school records with a 133-58 win over Toccoa Falls. The 133-point offensive output and the 75-point margin of victory marked new school highs dating back to 1971.

Eight different Catamount players scored double digits in the win, including freshman Kevin Martin’s team-high 19. The Zanesville, Ohio, native has led the team in scoring in all three games this year, and chipped in six rebounds, four assists and four steals to go along with 9-of-12 shooting.

TFU jumped out to an early lead with an 8-3 run when Derick Washington hit two three-pointers and a jumper to start the game. This lead would not last however, as the Cats charged back with a 13-2 streak that would give them the lead for good.

By halftime, Western Carolina had built their advantage to 65-23. The second half proved much of the same for the Catamounts, as the 42-point edge would slowly grow to the final margin of 75. WCU shut the door at game’s end, finishing the contest with a 22-4 run.

The Cats dominated nearly every statistical category. Western posted a .635 field goal percentage while only allowing .361 for the Eagles.

WCU also held the rebounding advantage with a 55-26 lead in boards. The strength inside also led to the Catamounts scoring 54 points in the paint, compared to just six by Toccoa Falls.

Junior guard Kori Hatcher had his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 assists. Junior center Lamont Speaks scored 16 points and grabbed a game-high 12 points to notch his first double-double as well.

All-Southern Conference selection senior forward Cory Largent added 14 points, while seniors Kelvin Wylie and Willie Freeman dropped 14 and 12 points, respectively.

Sophomore Rans Brempong, who led the SoCon in blocks last year, rejected four Eagles’ shots and chipped in 12 points.

Saturday evening, Western traveled to Coastal Carolina and fell in the waning minutes, 77-73, to the Chanticleers.

In the losing effort, Largent and senior Casey Rogers both surpassed 1,000 points for their collegiate careers. They became the 31st and 32nd players in WCU history to reach that mark.

The game began with each team trading buckets and the teams stood even with 22 points each midway through the first half. The Catamounts then went on a 9-0 run to build their lead to 31-22 with just over five minutes left in the half.

The Chanticleers would close the gap and capture the lead before half, however, and retired to the locker room with a narrow 38-35 lead.

Coastal Carolina then took control of the game as the second half progressed and, with 5.17 left to go in the game, had built a 68-54 lead. Refusing to yield, Western battled back to pull with three at 73-70 with under a minute remaining.

CCU composed themselves down the stretch, however, and knocked down six free throws in the final minute to ice the victory.

Martin led all Cats with a career-high 20 points, shooting 7-of-14 from the field. Largent finished the game with 17 points while pulling down a team-high eight rebounds. Freeman and Wylie rounded out the Catamount scorers in double digits with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Just before Thanksgiving break, Western opened the season with a 66-58 come-from-behind win over Tennessee Wesleyan in the Ramsey Center.

The Bulldogs shot over 60 percent from the field in the first half and forced 10 WCU turnovers to take a 37-30 lead at halftime.

TWU continued to pressure the Cats and built their lead as high as 13 in the second half. Rogers began the comeback for Western Carolina, however, hitting consecutive three-pointers to cut the lead to 46-43 with just over 14 minutes left in the game.

Minutes later, Hatcher hit a jumper and made a three-point play to spark a 9-0 run that would give the Cats the lead for good.

Martin made his college debut with 16 points while adding five rebounds and five steals. Rogers finished the game with eight points, eight assists and five steals.

Wylie and Largent also reached double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Freeman was just shy of a double-double with nine points and a team-high nine rebounds.

Western will remain at home to take on Emmanuel tonight at 7:00 p.m. This Saturday, they will match up against UNC-Asheville as part of a doubleheader with the women’s squad, tipping off at 3:30 p.m.