WCU Men’s Basketball Hosts Dalton State to Open 2023-24 Season
Coming off an 18-win season that saw the Catamounts make just the fourth postseason appearance in the program’s NCAA Division I era, Western Carolina men’s basketball opens year three under head coach Justin Gray on Tuesday night, hosting Dalton State in nonconference action at Ingles Court in the Ramsey Center. Tip-off of the season-opening home tilt is scheduled for 7:00 pm
Tickets for Tuesday’s game start at just $11 for adults and $6 for youth with both general admission and reserve seating available. WCU students receive free admission with their Cat Cards and are invited to sit in the “Cat Cage” student section. All-Hoops season tickets for both WCU men’s and women’s basketball are also available through the Athletics Ticket Office on the first floor of the Ramsey Center, by phone at (828) 227-2401, or online at CatamountSports.com.
Tuesday’s game will be broadcast on ESPN+ (paid subscription required) with live audio from the Catamount Sports Network beginning at 6:30 p.m. The game can be heard locally on 105.7 FM and 540 AM WRGC "The River" in Sylva with free online streaming audio available online at CatamountSports.com.
Fans can also follow the season opener with live stats accessible online at CatamountSports.com and with timely in-game updates on Twitter using @Catamounts and @CatamountMBB.
Western Carolina was picked third in the preseason SoCon Coaches Poll and predicted to finish in a tie for second by the voting media in the two polls released at the league’s annual Media Day Tip-off in Asheville back on Oct. 25. A trio of returning seniors were dubbed preseason All-SoCon, headlined by preseason SoCon Player of the Year in guard Vonterius Woolbright. He was joined on the preseason honorary squad by backcourt classmates Tre Jackson and Russell Jones Jr.
In addition to the three preseason honorees, the Catamounts return a combined seven letterwinners including four players who started 16 or more games a season ago. WCU’s lineup includes Bernard Pelote (5.5 ppg), DJ Campbell (5.0 ppg), Colin Granger (2.6 ppg), and Marcus Kell (2.5 ppg). Cinque Lemon of Spring Lake, N.C., is a returning redshirt from last year’s squad. Those returners are joined by four transfers including Charles Lampten (College of Charleston), Kamar Robertson (Mercer), Brandon Scott (Cosumnes River CC), and Cornelious Williams (LSU), and a trio of freshmen – Keyshawn Brown Jr. (Durham, N.C.), Kamari Jones (Indianapolis, Ind.), and Kaleb Siler (Fayetteville, N.C.)
Four games into its 2023-24 season, Dalton State comes to Cullowhee with a 2-2 overall record, averaging 69 points per game while surrendering 68.5 ppg. The Roadrunners split their opening two home games with a season-opening loss to Bryan College before downing Tennessee Wesleyan, 65-57. In the SSAC / Sun Challenge in Montgomery, Ala., Dalton State fell by three to Coastal Georgia, 72-69, before upending Keiser College by one, 71-70, last Friday (Nov. 3).
Dalton State was picked eighth out of the 13-team Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) in the coaches’ preseason poll. The league, which includes a pair of affiliate members, is spread over a six-state footprint including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Dalton State posted a 16-13 record a season ago – and is just four years removed from a 30-3 record and No. 1 seed in the national NAIA tournament in 2019-20 before the event was canceled because of COVID-19.
Tuesday marks the first-ever meeting between WCU and Dalton State on the men’s basketball hardwood all-time. According to available research, WCU holds a 3-0 record against current SSAC competition, winning all three meetings between 2004-06 against Point University when it was known as Atlanta Christian College
Following Tuesday’s season opener, WCU plays five of its next seven games on the road beginning with a two-game swing as the Catamounts visit ACC foe Notre Dame (Nov. 11) and Middle Tennessee (Nov. 13) out of Conference USA. Saturday’s game against the Fighting Irish is scheduled for 2 p.m. with a broadcast through the ACC Network Extra and ESPN+, while Monday night’s game in Murfreesboro, Tenn., is set for a 7:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. CT tip on ESPN+ (paid subscription required)