Cullowhee, N.C. – Mason Faulkner’s free throw with 4.3 seconds left broke a 77-all tie as Western Carolina won its fifth straight game with a 78-77 come-from-behind win over UNC Asheville in front of a raucous crowd Saturday at the Ramsey Center.
The win is the third straight for Western Carolina (7-2, 1-0 SoCon) over the Bulldogs and marks the first time since the 2015-16 campaign that WCU has won five straight seasonal games.
Carlos Dotson posted his third straight double-double with a team-best 16 points and 11 rebounds, 10 coming on the defensive glass. Dotson was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field, the first Catamount to shoot 1.000 from the field with five or more shots since Marc Gosselin accomplished the feat on Dec. 8, 2018, at UNC Asheville. Onno Steger recorded 14 points followed by Matt Halvorsen and Marcus Thomas with 12 each. Faulkner was the fifth Catamount in double figures with 11 points. Of Faulkner’s 11 points, nine came at the free-throw line.
DeVon Baker led UNC Asheville (4-3) with a game-high 18 points, followed by Lavar Batts with 17, Jajion Jones with 13 and LJ Thorpe with 12. Thorpe pulled down a team-best five rebounds.
Faulkner hit a pair of free throws 14 seconds into the game to open the scoring before the Bulldogs took their first lead of the game thanks to a Batts 3-pointer on the next possession. Trent Stepheny pushed the Bulldog advantage to five, 13-8, at the 13:30 mark as the visitors took a game-high 14-point lead, 24-10, after a Baker 3-pointer at the 9:54 mark. Tyler Harris’ bucket with 6:00 minutes remaining in the first half brought the Catamount deficit to single digits. Baker put the Bulldogs up by 10, 40-30, with 20 seconds remaining before a Thomas hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds to send the Catamounts into halftime down 40-33.
A Halvorsen 3-pointer pulled the hosts with two, 46-44, with just under 16 minutes remaining. The Catamounts hung within six points of UNC Asheville for the next six minutes before a Thorpe layup put the Bulldogs ahead by 10, 65-55. WCU hit two free throws on its next possession before a Jones 3-pointer pushed UNC Asheville’s lead to a second-half high 11, 68-57. Stepheny sent the Bulldogs into the final media timeout with 3:19 to play ahead by nine, 75-66, after he was fouled on a made layup.
The Catamounts went on an 11-2 run as the second of two Steger 3-pointers tied the contest at 77 with 39 seconds to play. Baker missed a shot on the ensuing UNC Asheville possession and Dotson grabbed the defensive rebound, setting Faulkner up to be fouled while driving to the basket. Faulkner missed the first three throw and made the second, with the Catamounts securing the win as Batts’ last-second effort was offline.
WCU outrebounded UNC Asheville 38-27. The Catamounts finished 28-for-53 (52.8 percent) from the field while UNC Asheville was 31-for-63 (49.2 percent).
Following Saturday’s game, the Catamounts take an 11-day break for exams, returning to action on Wed. Dec. 18 at Xavier for a 6:30 p.m. contest that will air nationally on FS1.
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