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  • Steven Grandy / WCU

Catamounts Win Thriller over Wofford in Blackout Game



Russell Jones Jr’s 3-pointer with 17.6 seconds remaining gave Western Carolina a lead it wouldn’t relinquish as the Catamounts earned a 76-71 come-from-behind victory over Wofford in front of a raucous crowd inside Ingles Court at the Ramsey Center as part of the Blackout Game promotion on Wednesday night.

WCU improves to 11-9 overall and 4-3 in the Southern Conference with the win while Wofford drops to 11-9 and 3-4. The 11 wins for the Catamounts match the season total for the 2021-22 campaign. The tightly contested game featured 12 lead changes and four ties.

Vonterius Woolbright scored a game-high 20 points, going 8-for-14 from the field along with seven rebounds. Wednesday’s game was the third straight 20-point-plus game for Woolbright. Tre Jackson added 17 points, 14 of which came in the second half as he made four 3-pointers. Tyzhaun Claude contributed 16 points and also grabbed seven rebounds. Tyler Harris tallied eight points and a career-best four blocks. Jones Jr. finished with five points with his only field goal of the night being the one that put WCU ahead.

Corey Tripp led Wofford with 19 points followed by Jackson Sivills with 13 points before fouling out. BJ Mack and Messiah Jones both added 10 points. Sivills and Kyler Filewich each grabbed seven rebounds.

After an opening five minutes that saw both teams remain within three points of each other, a Woolbright layup at the 12:33 mark gave the Catamounts a 16-11 advantage. The Terriers battled back, evening the game at 19 thanks to a Jackson Paveletzke layup with just over nine minutes to play. A Harris layup put WCU ahead 28-23 with 5:18 remaining but Wofford outscored the Catamounts 14-5 in the final stages of the opening half as the Terriers took a 37-32 advantage into halftime.

A Jones layup 16 seconds into the period opened the second half scoring as Wofford enjoyed a 46-38 advantage after an Adam Silas layup with 15:03 to play. Silas gave the Terriers a 52-44 advantage with just under 13 minutes left but the Catamounts roared back with an 11-0 run, grabbing the lead as a result of a Claude dunk and extending their advantage to 55-52 with a pair of Woolbright free throws with 10:33 remaining.

The Catamounts enjoyed a 58-54 lead just over a minute later after Jackson drained a 3-pointer, but Wofford used an 11-0 run of their own to gain a 65-58 lead with 5:53 left. The Terriers led 67-61 at the under-four minute media timeout and were ahead 69-64 following a pair of Mack free throws with 1:53 to play. With Wofford leading 71-67 with 33 seconds to play, Woolbright slashed the deficit in half with a layup and after the Terriers missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation, Woolbright grabbed the rebound with Jones Jr. getting the ball for the go-ahead shot. The Terriers threatened on their next possession but Harris swatted away a Wofford shot attempt and the Catamounts got the ball as part of a jump ball situation. Jones Jr. and Jackson made two free throws each in the final 10 seconds to secure the victory.

Wofford outrebounded WCU 35-30. For the game, WCU finished 27-for-53 (50.9 percent) from the field, 10-for-25 (40 percent) behind the 3-point line, and 12-for-17 (70.6 percent) at the free throw line. The Terriers posted a 27-for-59 (45.8 percent) mark from the field and were 9-for-17 (52.9 percent) behind the arc and 8-for-13 (61.5 percent) at the free throw line.

WCU hits the road Saturday, traveling to league-leading Samford for a 6 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Central tip-off.

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