Cullowhee, N.C. – Vonterius Woolbright scored a career-high 36 points to lead four Catamounts in double figures on Wednesday night, but the visiting Chattanooga Mocs shot nearly 60 percent from the floor in overcoming a 10-point first-half deficit to down Western Carolina 91-85 in Southern Conference action on Ingles Court at the Ramsey Center.
Woolbright connected on 14 field goals and made eight free throws to eclipse his previous career-best of 35 scored at Gardner-Webb earlier this season. His 36-point performance was his third 30-point outing this season – and second in the past three games. Woolbright boarded a team-best eight rebounds as his string of 13-consecutive double-double efforts was snapped, failing to hit double-digit rebounds for just the third time during his impressive season.
Tre Jackson hit four of WCU’s nine 3-pointers to finish with 14 points with Russell Jones Jr. adding three triples for 13 points. The two Columbia, S.C., products were credited with three steals apiece. DJ Campbell chipped in 10 points as WCU’s fourth in double figures, scoring eight in the second half.
Trey Bonham scored 22 points to pace four Mocs in double figures with grad transfer Jan Zidek finishing with 20 points including four of UTC’s 12 made 3-pointers. Honor Huff finished with 19 points while Sam Alexis scored 14 to accompany a team-high eight rebounds and was credited with four blocked shots.
Chattanooga (15-7, 7-2 SoCon), which won its fifth straight, finished the game shooting 59.6 percent, a season-high for a WCU opponent. The Mocs shot 58.6 percent in the first half and connected on 60.9 percent after halftime.
Western Carolina led by as many as 10 points on three separate occasions in Wednesday’s first half, using an 11-to-3 run to pull in front 30-20 with 6:38 to play for intermission. The Catamounts would again lead by double digits at 35-35 and 40-30, the latter coming with 2:35 to play before intermission.
The Mocs answered WCU’s eight-point swing with an 11-to-3 run of its own over the final two and a half minutes of the first half, capped by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Bonham as the teams hit the locker room separated by two points, 43-41.
UTC trailed at the break despite shooting 59% from the field over the opening 20 minutes while WCU had an eight-point edge from the free throw line, hitting 9-of-11 attempts while the Mocs made one of their two attempts.
WCU pulled in front by five on a Jackson 3-pointer just 17 seconds into the second half. Chattanooga then used a 13-to-2 run over the next six and half minutes, taking the lead for what proved to be for good on a Bonham trey in transition and ending the run with a six-point, 54-48, lead.
The Mocs continually had an answer for every Catamount surge in the second half. WCU closed to within two, 57-55, on a 3-pointer by Campbell, but UTC responded with the next four points to retake and lengthen its two-possession lead. Chattanooga ultimately built a game-high nine-point advantage with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.
Over the final two minutes, WCU was able to close to within four points on four occasions. But the SoCon’s top-shooting free throw squad by percentage held on from the stripe, connecting on 15-of-16 free throw attempts over the final two minutes to secure the win.
Western Carolina (16-6, 5-4 SoCon) hits the road for the first time in two weeks this Saturday, Feb. 3, as the Catamounts open the second half of SoCon play by visiting Wofford (12-10, 5-4 SoCon) at the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday’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.