Spartans edged by Catamounts on Senior Night, 70-66
For video of coach Mike Dement's postgame comments, click here.
By Rob Daniels
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Just when Brandon Evans seemed intent on screening "Hoosiers" for the Greensboro Coliseum crowd Monday night, Western Carolina's Mike Williams stopped the projector.
Williams' dribble penetration elicited a foul with 2.8 seconds left, and his two subsequent free throws broke the final tie of the night, lifting the Catamounts to a 70-66 win and spoiled UNCG's hopes for a remarkable comeback win in Evans' final home game.
Evans, UNCG's lone senior, hit three game-tying 3-pointers in the final seven minutes as the Spartans wiped out a 15-point second-half deficit and sought to craft a celluloid ending. Everybody assumes such things are inevitable, but they seldom come to fruition outside the freedom of creative license.
And that's what Williams employed with the score tied at 66 to run Western's winning streak to seven. With the shot clock about to expire, he rubbed off a high ball screen, got a half-step on Evans and induced a foul from Drew Parker.
"They set a good screen," Evans said. "He maneuvered to get me in (vulnerable) screening position for his big man. And then he did an excellent job of attacking the rim."
After Williams made both free throws, the Catamounts (16-13, 11-5 Southern Conference) intercepted a desperate long pass and sealed the win at the line.
The Spartans (5-21, 5-11) remain a competitive crew with relatively little to show for their propensity to charge back from big deficits.
"They're never out of a game," said Western Carolina coach Larry Hunter, attired in sweats 10 minutes after the game's end. "You cannot relax on them."
The Spartans got back into it with what coach Mike Dement termed some of their best defense of the season, and they began surging on the offensive end when Trevis Simpson's alley-oop dunk cut the deficit to 10.
"The point of it," Simpson said, "is to get my team going. We needed to get momentum. When we get momentum, we tend to play harder on the defensive end."
Evans took over with a series of clutch shots. He was fouled on one of his 3-pointers, and his free throw gave UNCG a 63-62 lead, its first edge since the opening minutes, with 3:20 to play.
"Coach said he wanted this game for me, but I wanted it more for him," said Evans, who finished with a game-high 23 points. "I wanted to help our team be in the best position to win the game. And I felt that if I had the ball in my hands, I could make it happen."
He drew his team even again at 66 by connecting with 1:27 to go, and after a defensive stop, the Spartans were in good shape. They called time out with 50 seconds on the game clock and with 28 to shoot.
But Western's Brandon Boggs anticipated Simpson's post-entry pass for Aloysius Henry, and his steal with 28 ticks to play gave the Catamounts a chance to win at the end of regulation. At worst, they'd get to play overtime.
That wasn't necessary.
Harouna Mutombo led WCU with 20 points and Trey Sumler had 16.
The result marked the second time in two weeks that a visitor broke a tie in the final 30 seconds of play with a drive, a foul and two free throws. Omar Carter of Appalachian State did it as the Mountaineers claimed an 80-78 win on Feb. 2.
"Western Carolina leads the league in steals," Dement said. "That's the reason they're No. 1 in the North Division right now. That and the fact that they've won their home games, which is something we haven't always done. That's their strength. Then Williams took over and got to the line."
UNCG has lost six of seven but has been competitive in almost every instance. The Spartans conclude the regular season with games at Georgia Southern and Davidson and hope to take some positive vibes into the league tournament
Western Carolina 70, UNCG 66
WESTERN CAROLINA (16-13, 11-5)
Mutombo, Harouna 8-13 4-5 20; Sumler, Trey 6-9 1-2 16; Williams, Mike 3-14 4-4 11; Boggs, Brandon 5-11 0-0 10; Gallagher, Blake 3-4 0-1 6; Gordon, Richie 2-6 2-4 6; Cole, Keaton 0-2 1-2 1; Ross, Preston 0-2 0-0 0; King, Tawaski 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 27-63 12-18 70.
UNCG (5-22, 5-11)
EVANS, Brandon 7-11 5-5 23; SIMPSON, Trevis 5-13 1-3 12; HENRY, Aloysius 3-10 4-7 10; COLE, Brian 4-10 0-0 9; PARKER, Drew 2-3 0-0 4; WILLIAMS, David 2-2 0-0 4; RANDALL, Kyle 1-4 0-0 2; BRACKETT, Aaron 1-3 0-0 2; VAN DUSSEN, Korey 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-58 10-15 66.
Western Carolina.............. 40 30 - 70
UNCG.......................... 31 35 - 66
3-point goals--Western Carolina 4-12 (Sumler, Trey 3-4; Williams, Mike 1-3; Cole, Keaton 0-2; Ross, Preston 0-1; Boggs, Brandon 0-1; Mutombo, Harouna 0-1), UNCG 6-19 (EVANS, Brandon 4-7; SIMPSON, Trevis 1-3; COLE, Brian 1-4; RANDALL, Kyle 0-3; VAN DUSSEN, Korey 0-1; PARKER, Drew 0-1). Fouled out--Western Carolina-None, UNCG-None. Rebounds--Western Carolina 38 (Mutombo, Harouna 8), UNCG 36 (BRACKETT, Aaron 9). Assists--Western Carolina 13 (Williams, Mike 5), UNCG 7 (SIMPSON, Trevis 2; RANDALL, Kyle 2). Total fouls--Western Carolina 16, UNCG 15. Technical fouls--Western Carolina-None, UNCG-None. A-3161
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