Shaking off a sluggish first half, Western Carolina rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to tie the game inside the final 10 seconds and force overtime against UNCG on Wednesday night on Ingles Court at the Ramsey Center. However, despite grabbing the first lead in the extra session, the Catamounts could not overcome nine made free throws by the visiting Spartans in suffering an 85-82 home loss.
UNCG connected on nine of its 12 free throw attempts in overtime while WCU was limited to 3-of-13 shooting from the floor including just 1-of-8 from range. WCU was relegated to its third-straight loss marking the longest winless drought of the season, while also suffering a second-straight home defeat on the heels of winning 10 in a row on its home court.
Vonterius Woolbright collected his NCAA-leading 17th double-double thanks to a tremendous second half, finishing one point shy of his career-high with 34 points on 10-of-21 shooting with 15 rebounds including 10 on the defensive end. Woolbright scored 28 points and pulled down 11 second-half boards, adding five total assists on the night. Tre Jackson hit six of WCU’s 10 3-pointers to finish with 22 points, a dozen coming after intermission.
Russell Jones Jr. chipped in eight points with DJ Campbell adding six points and six boards. Charles Lampten had seven rebounds and three blocked shots, adding three points and a pair of steals. All but nine of WCU’s points came from its starting five on Wednesday.
Second to Woolbright in the SoCon in scoring on the year, UNCG forward Mikeal Brown-Jones scored a game-high 39 points, shooting 13-of-16 from the free-throw line and boarding nine misses. Keyshaun Langley finished with 17 points with five assists while his brother Kobe Langley handed out seven assists. Jalen Breath posted a team-high 11 rebounds for the Spartans.
Late in Wednesday’s second half, UNCG’s Keyshaun Langley banked home an NBA-range 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to give UNCG a seven-point edge, 70-63, with 1:45 remaining. The Catamounts responded by scoring the final seven points of regulation as Jackson responded with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and Woolbright made it a one-possession game with a layup in the paint with 45 seconds to play.
UNCG turned it over on their penultimate possession as Jones Jr. came away with a steal in the lane inside the final 20 seconds. Jackson drove from the wing looking for the equalizing bucket, but his attempt fell off the rim. Lampten grabbed the offensive rebound and his stick-back fell through the cylinder to knot the game at 70 with just under five seconds to play. UNCG’s last-second shot by Brown-Jones from the top of the key missed, resulting in the extra session.
In overtime, the Catamounts continued their nine-point run as Woolbright pushed WCU ahead with a layup before UNCG scored four straight to retake the one-possession advantage. Tied at 77 with 1:32 to play, the Spartans recorded the next five points to lead 82-77 inside the final 30 seconds. Back within three points after a made free throw, Woolbright purposefully missed his second attempt off the front iron where he grabbed the offensive board and kicked it back to Bernard Pelote at the top of the key.
However, having to pull the trigger very quickly as the clock was expiring, Pelote’s 3-point attempt just missed short as UNCG won its fifth straight over the Catamounts in the head-to-head series.
UNCG (15-5, 6-1 SoCon) used a 14-to-3 run to erase WCU’s early two-point edge and grab a nine-point lead at the 13:46 mark of the first half. The guests pushed their lead to a half-high 13 midway through the opening period. The Catamounts were only able to close to within six points over the first 20 minutes as the Spartans carried a 13-point lead, 39-26, into the halftime locker room.
The Catamounts were just 9-of-28 (32%) from the field in the first half and were outrebounded 22-to-14 including a 6-to-3 edge on the offensive glass. UNCG shot 47% from the floor with six of its 14 made field goals coming from beyond the arc.
The Spartans pushed their lead to a game-high 14 points two and a half minutes into the second half and led by 13 at the 14:07 mark, 53-40. Western Carolina then embarked on a 15-to-2 run over the next four minutes to tie the game at 55 midway through the frame.
Western Carolina (15-5, 4-3 SoCon) continues its season-long three-game home stand on Saturday afternoon by hosting VMI in the backend of a Catamount hoops doubleheader with the women’s squad. WCU’s women host Chattanooga at 2 p.m. on “Pack the RAC” day in Cullowhee, with the men’s game to follow at 5 p.m.
Both games will be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live audio from the Catamount Sports Network and live stats available online at CatamountSports.com. For tickets to WCU’s home games, please visit CatamountSports.com/BuyTickets.