CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Junior Mike Amius of the Western Carolina men’s basketball team scored 19 points Monday night against the Mountaineers of Appalachian State, but none were bigger than the final two he scored with just over seven seconds to play, as he spun around his defender and slammed home the ball to put the Catamounts ahead 72-71. Appalachian State came up empty on the other end as the Catamounts remained perfect at home this season with a 72-71 victory over their former conference-rival Mountaineers.
Amius patrolled the paint for the Catamounts, where he finished with 19 points including a trio of dunks. He also ripped down seven rebounds in the victory. Senior Deriece Parks led the way in scoring with 20 points while nailing six 3-pointers, including four in the opening 20 minutes. Freshman Matt Halvorsen was the final Catamount in double figures, as he finished with 14 while going 8-of-8 at the free-throw line.
Junior Marc Gosselin grabbed a team-high eight rebounds in the win while also tying for the team lead with three steals. Freshman Desmond Johnson also finished with a team-high three steals in just 10 minutes of action.
The victory is the second at home this season for the Catamounts and brings their record to 3-6 on the year, while the Mountaineers fell to 5-5 overall with the loss.
Justin Forrest led the Mountaineer attack, with 18 points while Ronshad Shabazz chipped in 16.
The Catamounts shot 46.4 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from 3-point range. The Mountaineers edged the Catamounts in field goal percentage as they connected on 48.3 percent of their shots, including 45.5 percent from 3. The difference came at the free-throw line, where WCU knocked down 12 of its 15 attempts while the Mountaineers hit just five of their 12 free shots including 2-of-7 in the second half.
WCU edged Appalachian State in turnovers 16-12, while the Mountaineers won the rebounding battle 36-31.
Appalachian State built up an eight point, 19-11 lead 10 minutes into the contest Monday night before a Parks 3-pointer ended the run with 9:27 remaining. Sophomore Onno Steger followed with an offensive rebound putback to cut the deficit to just three. After a quick 4-0 run by the Mountaineers, the Catamounts responded with a 7-0 run that tied the game at 23 with 4:25 left in the half. Five of the seven points came at the hands of Amius. Just under a minute later, three free throws from Halvorsen gave WCU a 26-25 lead. The teams traded baskets down the stretch, but with 37 seconds, left Amius beat his defender and slammed home a dunk to give WCU a 31-30 halftime lead.
The Catamounts came out firing in the second half and opened up a nine-point lead on two separate occasions, but it would not be enough to hold off the surging Mountaineers. With four minutes remaining and the Catamounts ahead 70-62, Appalachian State mounted a 9-0 run to take a 71-70 lead with just over a minute and a half to play. Neither team could score on the next five possessions until head coach Larry Hunter drew up a play for Amius. With the floor spread, the Catamounts fed the ball to their junior big man, who did what he had done all night and beat his man to the basket for a dunk with seven seconds left in the game. The Mountaineers quickly inbounded the ball and sprinted up the court but a last-second prayer by ASU came up short at the buzzer.
The Catamounts will now take their show on the road as they travel to defending national champion North Carolina on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. contest.