Spartans fall in SoCon semis, 82-77
ASHEVILLE, N.C. –Western Carolina used a 10-0 run midway through the second half to seize control of the game and the Catamounts held off UNCG down the stretch as the Spartans suffered a season-ending 82-77 defeat in the Southern Conference Tournament semifinals, Sunday at U.S. Cellular Center.
The Catamounts (17-17) advance to Monday's championship game against either Davidson or Elon. The Spartans end their season with a 13-19 record.
After Western jumped out to a 50-43 lead with 16:19 left in the game, UNCG went on a 7-2 run and pulled within 52-50 on a David Williams layup with 15:07 to play. The Spartans and Catamounts combined to miss their six shots before Trey Sumler started Western's 10-0 run with a three-pointer to make it 55-50 with 13:04 left.
Preston Ross followed Sumler's basket with four straight points and Kenneth Hall capped the run with a three-point play as Western gained a 62-50 lead with 10:48 left.
Korey Van Dussen stopped the bleeding for UNCG with a three-pointer and Trevis Simpson followed with a jumper to get the Spartans within 62-55, but Western used five straight points from Harouna Mutombo to get the lead back to 12 points at 67-55 with 8:39 left.
But UNCG had one last run. With the Spartans trailing 69-57, UNCG's Drew Parker connected for consecutive three-pointers and Derrell Armstrong hit a jumper from the left side to make it 69-65 with 5:29 left.
A basket by Simpson made it 71-67 but after WCU's Tawaski King scored to make it 73-67 the Spartans misfired on their next five possessions, all while Western was also going without a score. Western's Keaton Cole broke the drought with what proved to be a decisive three-pointer to make it 76-67 with 2:15 to go.
The Spartans got to within 76-73 with 1:09 remaining, but the Catamounts sealed the game by making six free throws in the final 36 seconds.
Simpson finished with a game-high 24 points for the Spartans, making 8-of-19 shots from the field and all five of his free throws. Armstrong scored 14 points off the bench and added seven rebounds, while Parker chipped in with 11 points and Williams added 10.
Simpson, the SoCon's leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, is on pace to become the first Spartan to lead the conference in scoring.
Western Carolina placed four players in double figures, with Cole and Mutombo getting 17 each.
The team stats were almost identical. UNCG shot 46.7 percent to Western's 46.8 percent. The Spartans were 13-of-14 from the free throw line while the Catamounts were 14-of-19. Western made 10-of-21 three-pointers and UNCG sank 8-of-19 from beyond the arc. Both teams committed 13 turnovers, but Western owned a 36-30 rebounding advantage.