While the students, faculty and staff were away on Winter Break at Western Carolina University in December and January, the Catamounts excelled on the hardwood in Cullowhee and on the road.
The men’s basketball team first competed on Monday, Dec. 15 in Cullowhee, routing the Tennessee-Wesleyan Bulldogs 110-67. In the win, seven Catamounts put up double figures in a game that saw WCU outscore Tennessee-Wesleyan 56-32 in the first half and 54-35 in the second.
Jake Robinson piloted the Catamounts to victory with 19 points. Greg Avery scored 14, while Kendall Russell had 12 and Keaton Cole and Dominique Quarles each added 11. Adrian Gailliard and Brandon Giles scored 10 points apiece.
Statistically, Blake Gallagher grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. Robinson was also 5-for-7 from beyond the arc and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line. Jackson was perfect on 3-pointers, going 7-for-7. He also hit 4 of 4 free throws.
The Catamounts had 69 bench points compared to 21 for the Bulldogs. Following the win against Tennessee-Wesleyan, Western Carolina lost three straight. They fell to Gardner-Webb 96-90 in a close contest at home on Dec. 17, dropped a ESPN360.com event on Dec. 19 94-77 to No. 23 ranked Marquette and lost a local televised contest to rival UNC-Asheville 81-78 on New Year’s Eve Day on WMYA-TV.
Since the New Year began on Jan. 1 though, the Catamounts have streaked to win three in a row. They first took down Furman in Greenville, SC on Jan. 3 in their Southern Conference opener.
Giles scored 25 points in the win, 20 in the second half, and had eight rebounds to lift Western Carolina to a 68-57 victory.
WCU held a one point lead, 25-24, after the first half and led by another slim margin, 52-51, with 5:18 left in the game, but Giles dunked, Brigham Waginger hit a layup and Giles nailed a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 59-52 with 4:02 remaining in the second half.
Another Giles’ three-point play gave the Catamounts a 62-53 advantage with 3:11 left as Western Carolina never looked back to cruise to a victory.
Behind Giles, Harouna Mutombo and Robinson scored 11 points each for WCU.
After the win at Furman, the Catamounts went on to win two more SoCon games, both in Cullowhee. They edged UNC-Greensboro 80-75 on Jan. 8 and took down Elon 74-67 on Jan. 10.
Mutombo scored 29 points for Western Carolina to hold off UNC Greensboro. Giles added 20 points for the Catamounts.
Against Elon, Mutombo aided WCU again, scoring a team leading 17. Giles added 14 points for Western Carolina and Robinson had 11.
The win put the Catamounts first in the Southern Conference North Division with a 8-5 overall record and 3-0 SoCon record. WCU will look to increase their winning streak to four games with a contest against SoCon newcomer Samford (6-7, 1-3) on Dec. 15 in Birmingham, Alabama.