WCU MEN’S BASKETBALL
AUSTIN, Texas – Damion James led four Longhorns in double-figures with a game-high 18 points as No. 3 Texas erased an early Western Carolina lead en route to a 73-41 victory Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center. The Catamounts struggled to find rhythm offensively, only mustering 26-percent shooting from the field in the loss.
Red-shirt sophomore Harouna Mutombo was the lone Catamount to reach double figures, scoring 10 points and leading the squad with eight rebounds. The Pickering, Ontario native added four steals and a pair of assists for WCU. Senior Adrian Gailliard chipped in eight points off the bench, while junior Richie Gordon scored six and boarded seven in the losing effort.
“From a competitive standpoint for the entire ball game, we competed very, very well and actually played pretty solid defense for most of the game” said WCU fifth-year head coach Larry Hunter during a post-game interview on the Catamount Sports Network. “(Texas) presents many match-up problems, but I felt our guys battled in there with them and forced 20-plus turnovers and did okay defensively. We just have got to get something going offensively.”
Among Western Carolina’s offensive struggles was a 3-for-19 (15.8%) performance behind the 3-point arc. However, defensively the Catamounts forced 21 Longhorn turnovers including 11 steals collectively.
James scored eight of his team-high 18 points from the free throw line, recording 11 points in the second half. J’Covan Brown, Gary Johnson and Varez Ward each scored 10 points, with Johnson pulling down seven rebounds as Texas (2-0) won the battle of the boards, 47-to-32. The Longhorns scored 40 of its 73 points inside the paint.
Western Carolina (1-1) pulled out to a three-point lead on two occasions inside the game’s opening five minutes, leading 11-8 at the 15:16 mark of the first half. However, the third-ranked Longhorns managed to outscore WCU 33-to-8 to take their largest lead of the opening 20 minutes at 22, 41-to-19.
With five minutes remaining before the break, senior Brigham Waginger tallied one of his two steals and fed junior Mike Williams for a highlight reel alley-oop slam dunk to close the gap to 13, 28-15. But, that would be as close as the Catamounts would get the remainder of the game.
WCU missed its first seven shots from the field before Gailliard connected on a pair of free throws at the 16:27 mark for its first points of the second stanza. And it wasn’t until the 13:32 mark that Gailliard connected on a jumper in the paint for Western’s first field goal after halftime.
All told, WCU missed its first 10 shots from the floor in the second half and only managed 7-of-31 (22.6%) shooting after halftime.
Western Carolina will host the sub-regional round of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic beginning Monday, Nov. 23 through Wednesday, Nov. 25 in the Ramsey Center in Cullowhee. The Catamounts will welcome Arkansas-Monticello, Binghamton and Duquesne for three days of double-headers with games beginning at 5:00 pm each day with WCU taking to the court at 7:30 pm.