GAME NOTES: The sixth-seeded Western Carolina Catamounts look to keep its hopes of returning to the championship game alive as they take on the No. 3-seed College of Charleston Cougars in the quarterfinals of the Southern Conference Tournament.
The Catamounts put together two solid halves on Friday as they coasted past the Citadel to a 76-61 decision. WCU has now won three of its last four games. Last year, the then-No. 3 North seeded Catamounts played four tournament games in as many days making it all the way to the finals with wins over the Citadel (68-56) in the first round, Wofford (82-59) and UNCG (82-77). WCU later took Davidson into double overtime, but lost by two, 93-91, in the upset bid.
Charleston finished the regular season with a 22-6 overall record including a 14-4 mark in SoCon play. The strong showing earned the Cougars one of the tournament's four-first round byes. Coach Doug Wojcik's first year at the helm of the program has already been a success, but his squad may be talented enough to make a run at the tourney title. It has been 14 years since the Cougars last went dancing.
The lone regular-season encounter between these schools was decided by just a single basket, as Charleston clipped WCU, 67-65. The Cougars' Andrew Lawrence knocked down a pair of free-throws with one second left to lift Charleston to the win, which improved its all-time series lead to 18-7.
On Friday, First-Team All-SoCon selection Trey Sumler led the way for WCU against the Bulldogs with 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor. James Sinclair added 14 points and six rebounds while Tom Tankelewicz scored 11 points. The Catamounts put on a clinic from the floor, going 28-of-55 (50.9 percent), while they limited The Citadel to 26-of-59 (44.1 percent) efficiency. After the win, WCU has an average scoring margin of -0.1 ppg.
Charleston is just a middle of the road team offensively with an average of 65.1 ppg, however it is very adept on the other end of the floor where it allows only 61.1 ppg. Lawrence, who played for Great Britain's senior national team in the most recent Summer Olympics, paces the squad with 13 points, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals per tilt. Anthony Stitt is a solid second option at 10.9 ppg while Adjehi Baru provides 9.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per outing. Trent Wiedeman and Anthony Thomas are solid role players for Charleston, which has not lost to a SoCon rival other than Davidson since Jan. 17.
The first matchup of the season between these schools went down to the wire and WCU should not be counted out after its improbable run in the 2012 edition of this event. The Catamounts will need to find a way to contain Lawrence, as he is the engine to Charleston's success.
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