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  • Daniel Hooker

Five Score in Double Figures in 102-77 Win over VMI



Western Carolina erupted for 18 straight points as part of a fast start on Saturday evening as the Catamounts scored a commanding 102-77 victory over VMI in Southern Conference action on Ingles Court at the Ramsey Center. Russell Jones Jr. led five Catamounts in double figures with 22 points including six made 3-pointers and Vonterius Woolbright collected his third career triple-double as WCU halted a three-game seasonal slide with a decisive home win.


Entering Saturday’s game just eight points shy of the 1,000-point career milestone, Jones Jr. wasted little time in accomplishing the feat, connecting on his first three 3-pointers to score nine of WCU’s 18 points in the early spurt. He is the third Catamount on the 2023-24 roster to surpass the 1,000-point plateau, joining classmates Woolbright and Tre Jackson.

 

Jones Jr. connected on eight field goals including six of WCU’s 14 made 3-pointers to lead the way with 22 points, one point shy of his career high. DJ Campbell scored a career-high 20 points, adding six rebounds and four assists with Jackson connecting on five 3-pointers in his 19-point performance. Woolbright finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists for the triple-dip, with Bernard Pelote chipping in 11 points off the bench. Two of Woolbright’s three career triple-doubles – the most in a career by any Catamount all-time – came against VMI as the Albany, Ga., product recorded his first against the Keydets in last year’s regular-season finale in the Ramsey Center.

 

All nine of the Catamounts that played recorded at least two points and two rebounds. Also, WCU only trailed for 62 seconds in the winning effort.

 

VMI saw two players hit the 20-point mark as Brennan Watkins went for 22 and Tyran Cook scored 20 to lead the Keydets. Taeshaud Jackson II just missed a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds and Stephen Olowoniyi tallied nine points.

 

Western Carolina (16-5, 5-3 SoCon) fell behind 2-0 before a pair of Woolbright free throws tied the game at two apiece just under two minutes into Saturday’s game. Jones Jr. then took over with 3-pointers on three-consecutive possessions followed by a Jackson triple to give the Catamounts a double-digit lead it would never relinquish. Jackson and Campbell added layups to cap the decisive run that put the Catamounts ahead 18-2 four minutes into the game.

 

The Keydets were only able to get back to within 10 points on a Cook dunk at the 13:36 mark of the first half as WCU methodically pulled away. The Catamounts took their first 20-point lead on another Jones Jr. 3-pointer with 7:10 to play before the half and ultimately stretched their advantage to 30 on a Pelote slam dunk in the final 30 seconds of the period as WCU led 63-33 at halftime.

 

The Catamounts took a game-high 32-point lead early in the second half before the resilient Keydets had a counter punch. VMI used a 17-to-7 run to close to within 22 at the 13:43 mark and later pulled to within 20 with 8:39 remaining in regulation. But the Catamounts maintained their sizeable advantage with Corneilous Williams converting an offensive rebound into a second-chance bucket that pushed WCU over the century mark with a pair of AJ Clark free throws inside the final three seconds providing the final tally, 102-77.

 

WCU made a season-best 38 field goals on 53% shooting, the seventh time this season the Catamounts shot better than 50 percent from the field including 63% over the opening 20 minutes. The home squad also won the battle on the boards 45-to-39. But among the biggest stats that told the story came from beyond the arc. WCU connected on a season-best 14 3-pointers while limiting the Keydets to 1-of-15 from range – a staggering 42-to-3 edge in points.

 

The Catamounts conclude their season-long three-game homestand on the final day of January, hosting Chattanooga next Wednesday, Jan. 31 on Ingles Court at the Ramsey Center. Wednesday’s game will be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live streaming 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.

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