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  • Steven Grandy / WCU

Strong Second Half Boosts Catamounts Past ETSU

Tied at 38 at halftime, Western Carolina got off to a quick start in the second half and gained separation during the middle stages of the half as the Catamounts defeated ETSU 71-60 on Wednesday night inside Freedom Hall.

WCU improves to 9-7 overall and 2-1 in the Southern Conference with the win. The victory for WCU snaps a 15-game road losing streak against the Bucs as the Catamounts scored their first win in Johnson City since 1996. ETSU drops to 6-10 overall and 2-1 in league play.

Russell Jones Jr. scored a WCU career-high 21 points to lead four players in double figures in the squad's second-straight league win. Jones Jr. finished 8-for-13 from the field and 5-for-7 behind the 3-point line. Tre Jackson finished with 17 points followed by Vonterius Woolbright with 14 and Tyzhaun Claude with 11. Woolbright and Claude narrowly missed double-doubles with nine and eight rebounds, respectively.

Jordan King led ETSU with 13 points followed by Jaden Seymour with 12 and Jalen Haynes with 10. Seymour recorded a double-double with a game-high 12 rebounds.

After the Bucs tallied the first four points of the game, the Catamounts used an 8-2 run capped by a Woolbright jumper for an 8-6 advantage. After a Woolbright bucket put WCU ahead 10-9 at the 14:10 mark, the Bucs used an 11-0 run to grab a 20-10 lead with 12:25 to play. WCU halted the ETSU run with 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, but ETSU used an 8-0 spurt for a half-best 12-point run, 28-16 with just under nine minutes left. The Catamounts used a 9-2 run to tie the game at 36 on a Jones Jr 3-pointer with 1:02 left with both teams trading baskets in the final minute to head into halftime tied at 38.

WCU opened the second half on a 6-2 run, pulling ahead 44-40 thanks to a layup by Jones Jr at the 17:18 mark. The Catamount lead hovered between two and five points over the next four minutes with a Haynes layup bringing ETSU within three, 51-48 with 13:02 remaining. WCU used a 10-2 run capped by a Tre Jackson 3-pointer with 7:41 left for a 61-50 advantage. The Bucs trimmed the WCU lead to seven points before Jones Jr silenced the Freedom Hall crowd with a 3-pointer with 6:01 left as the Catamount lead never dipped below double figures down the stretch. The Catamounts outscored ETSU 33-22 in the second half.

The Catamounts finished 25-for-61 (41 percent) from the field, 13-for-34 (38.2 percent) behind the 3-point line, and 8-for-14 (57.1 percent) at the free throw line. ETSU was 26-for-52 (50 percent) from the field, 3-for-10 (30 percent) behind the arc, and 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) at the free throw line. ETSU held a 42-32 edge in rebounds.

The Catamounts return to Ingles Court on Saturday, hosting Mercer at 4 p.m.

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