Catamounts pull a victory in Johnson’s debut

The era of Brooke Johnson has officially begun in Cullowhee. The 6’4″ sophomore transfer from Carson-Newman College in Tennessee made her Lady Catamount debut against the Wofford Lady Terriers. But first, Western would take a trip to ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) country for the second time this season. However, the result would not be the same as the first time. The 2nd-ranked North Carolina Lady Tar Heels shot 50% from the floor on the way to an 87-58 defeat of Western Carolina in front of three, 107 at Carmichael Auditorium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. After exchanging baskets in the first minute of the game, North Carolina would go on a 14-to-2 run to take a 16-4 lead before the first time-out. Western would cut the lead to six with consecutive field goals, but Western would not get any closer as the Lady Tar Heels would regain a double-digit lead with 9:33 left to play in the first half, eventually gaining a 20-point lead with just 3:00 left in the half. Western would go into halftime, trailing by 23, 48-25. North Carolina shot lights out in the first half, 53%. The second half would not get any better as the Lady Catamounts would continue to struggle against North Carolina’s pressure defense. The Lady Tar Heels would extend their lead to as much as 35 points with 5:00 left in the second half. Western would make one last attempt to cut down the lead with a few last baskets over the final 60 seconds but would fall, 87-58. Despite the loss, Western (5-5) had some bright spots: sophomore Kendra Eaton led the way with a career-high 15 points, Lauren Powell would chip in 13 and Ashley Pellom added 12 to go along with six steals. The Lady Tar Heels (10-0) put four players in double figures, led by Preseason ACC player-of-the-year, Ivory Latta’s 19 points, to go along with six assists. Asheville native and high school teammate of Powell, Rashanda McCants scored 16 points, which included going three of four from three-point range. Erlana Larkin and Camille Little rounded out the double-figure scorers with 13 and 12, respectively. North Carolina won the battle of the boards by more than 10, 47-36. Western Carolina only shot a 34% field goal percentage that included shooting just 2-for-16 (13%) from beyond the arc. All season, Western Carolina has been waiting for the time to unleash Brooke Johnson on opponents, and that right time was against the Wofford Lady Terriers as she did not disappoint. Johnson led the way with a game-high 17 points and contributed to the Lady Catamounts’ first conference win of the season, a 76-67 win over Wofford College in front of 279 fans at Benjamin Johnson Arena in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The win put Western at 6-5, and 1-0 in the Southern Conference. Wofford would fall to 6-4 and 0-1 in the Conference. The first half saw plenty of action and the lead changing hands many times. There were six ties, and the two teams exchanged the lead 11 times in the half. It looked like Wofford would take the lead going into the locker room, but the Lady Catamounts would come back with five consecutive points courtesy of a three-pointer from senior Erin May and a runner by junior Monique Dawson to give Western the 33-30 lead going into halftime. Western would do its best to try and pull away, but Wofford would tie and even take the lead at 43-41 with 15:04 left in the game. After exchanging baskets, Ashley Pellom would put Western up for good with 12:54 left. Western would continue to add to their lead and go up by as many as 15 points, 65-50, with 6:27 to go in the game, thanks to a 20-to-4 run by the Lady Catamounts. The Lady Terriers refused to go away, cutting the lead to seven, 67-60, with 2:17 left. Western would seal the game in the final two minutes by going 6-of-8 from the free throw line for the final of 76-67. Beside Johnson’s 17 points and four blocked shots, Dawson contributed 12 points. Chevon Keith picked up her second double-double in three games with 11 points and 15 rebounds. Ashley Pellom rounded out the scorers with double-figures of 10. Despite not scoring in double-figures, May chipped in eight points. For Wofford, three players scored in figures, led by sophomore guard Liz Miller’s career high of 22 points. Junior Kelsi Koening eclipsed a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Jennifer Weurding topped out the double figure scorers with 10 points, to go along with four blocked shots. The Lady Catamounts easily won the battle on the boards, 55-40. Bench points played a huge role in the game with Western winning that battle, 39-21.