Despite a strong effort in a hostile environment, the Catamount Basketball team came up short against rival Appalachian State on Saturday, Jan. 24. The Western Carolina men’s basketball team was unable to overcome a career day by ASU guard Kellen Brand and the Mountaineers full court press in the second half. In the closing minutes, the Cats came close and pulled within a point, but fell 76-70 when time expired.
The game started out as a back and forth affair featuring five ties in the first five minutes of play. Western, however was able to string together scores on back to back possessions and stop ASU to build an 18-11 lead. The Catamounts continued to stretch this lead to nine points, 22-13, just past the ten minute mark in the first half. The Catamounts largest lead of the game came in the first half when they were up by 12, 32-20. After Jake Robinson drained a three point bucket with three minutes remaining in the first half the Catamounts could not put anymore points on the board before halftime.
While the Catamounts were missing shots on their end of the floor, they saw the Mountaineers go on a 9-0 run and close the Catamounts lead to three points at halftime, 34-31.
“I thought Appalachian’s run at the end of the first half really gave them some momentum,” said head coach Larry Hunter. “We had a 12-point lead, but they took a bite of that going into the locker room.”
Kellen Brand led Appalachian in scoring in the first half, grabbing 19 points, while junior Jake Robinson led the Catamounts in the first half scoring with seven points. Following the break, Western continued their struggles from late in the first half. Appalachian featured a full court press in the second half of the game that Western was unable to handle effectively. The Mountaineers opened the half with a 12-2 run that erased WCU’s lead and built a seven point advantage. Unwilling to give up, however, Western answered the ASU rally by going on an 8-0 run and retaking the lead by one, 44-43.
The Catamounts would only have the lead one more time in the game though and relinquished the lead for good when Appalachian broke a 50-50 tie. Western was unable to stop Kellen Brand all night and in the second half had a difficult time coming up with big stops when they were needed.
“I didn’t think we were able to get many consecutive stops in the second half,” said Hunter. “They did a nice job of either getting to the foul line or scoring in the second half.”
In the second half, WCU did see solid performances from an solo standpoint. Redshirt freshmen Harouna Mutombo scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half. And junior Brandon Giles also scored all but two of his points in the second half; he tallied 12 of his 14 points after intermission.
With the loss to Appalachian, Western fell to 9-9 overall and 4-4 in Southern Conference play.