Senior Vonterius Woolbright posted his NCAA-leading 15th double-double of the season with a team-high 23 points and 10 rebounds while classmate Russell Jones Jr. finished one point shy of his career-high with 22 on Tuesday night, but Western Carolina was unable to ride a raucous Ramsey Center crowd in dropping its first game since Dec. 5, falling to the red-hot Samford Bulldogs 75-71 in a battle of Southern Conference unbeatens on Ingles Court.
Tuesday’s loss halted a pair of lengthy streaks for the Catamounts, ending the program’s longest consecutive game win streak since 2009-10 at nine games while also snapping a 10-game home winning streak on Ingles Court at the Ramsey Center.
The announced crowd of 5,018 was the third-largest in Ramsey Center history and the most since the 2010 season when over 6K witnessed a WCU-App State showdown in Catamount Country.
Woolbright connected on eight field goals with seven made free throws in tallying his 11th 20-point performance of the year. Adding 10 rebounds, the Albany, Ga., product posted his 10th-straight double-double effort. Jones Jr. hit a career-best five 3-pointers on his way to 22 points, moving the senior to 981 career points on his way to 1,000. Sophomore DJ Campbell shook off a sluggish start to score all 12 of his points in the second half to round out WCU’s double-digit scorers, adding seven rebounds.
Tre Jackson was hot out of the gates with a pair of early 3-pointers, finishing the game with eight points.
Samford’s Achor Achor collected his second double-double of the season, scoring a career-high 35 points and adding a team-best 10 rebounds to lead three Bulldogs in double figures. Rylan Jones added 18 points and six assists while Jaden Campbell chipped in 10 and A.J. Staton-McCray finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
Consecutive Jackson 3-pointers on their first two possessions, one coming well behind the arc, handed the Catamounts the early 6-4 lead. However, Samford’s Achor scored the first nine points for the Bulldogs, capping the stretch with a pair of free throws with the second giving Samford the lead for what proved to be for good at 9-8 three minutes into the game.
Samford managed to take a nine-point lead midway through the half before the Catamounts scored five-straight points to close back to within four, 26-22, with seven minutes to play before the break. But WCU was unable to pull any closer and the Bulldogs scored the next seven points to take a half-high 11-point lead with four and a half to play before intermission. The Bulldogs carried an eight-point, 37-29, lead into the halftime locker room.
Over the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Catamounts were able to close to within five points on three different occasions. Corneilous Williams, who was credited with three blocked shots, followed up a missed shot with a thunderous slam dunk to make it 51-46 at the 9:23 mark. But each time, Samford had an answer to maintain a multiple-possession lead and keep WCU at arm’s length.
The Catamounts finally managed to make it a one-possession game inside of the four-minute mark, closing to within three points on three separate occasions. A Jones Jr. triple from an assist by Woolbright just inside the final minute made it 71-68. Following a defensive stop, Woolbright then pulled the home squad to within one, 71-70, by connecting on a pair of free throws around the 10-second mark.
Samford, though, managed to hit all four of its final free throw attempts and used the foul differential to put the Catamounts at the free throw line for the 1-and-1 and prevented WCU from getting a look at a would-be game-tying 3-pointer in scoring the four-point win.
All told, the Catamounts held the nation’s top-scoring team 16 points below its seasonal average entering the game at 75 points in the loss. Samford was just the seventh opponent this season to shoot over 40% against the Catamounts, while WCU failed to hit the 40% shooting mark for just the fourth time this season – and the second game in a row. Both teams finished with 38 rebounds apiece with the Catamounts edging the Bulldogs 11-to-8 on the offensive glass.
Western Carolina plays its final road game of January on Saturday as the Catamounts travel to Greenville, S.C., to face chromatic rival Furman at Timmons Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. and 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.