CULLOWHEE, N.C. – The Western Carolina men’s basketball team used a balanced scoring attack Thursday night as the Catamounts downed visiting Southern Wesleyan 108-48 in WCU’s final nonconference game of the season.
WCU inserted senior Ashley Williams into the starting lineup for the first time this season and he did not disappoint as he scored a team-high 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field including 3-of-3 from 3-point range. He knocked down 2-of-3 free throws and did all his damage in just 14 minutes of work.
Junior Mike Amius was also 6-of-6 from the field, including a breakaway windmill reverse dunk in the opening 20 minutes. He finished with 13 points, a team-high six rebounds and three steals. He struggled from the free-throw line, knocking down just one of his four attempts. Sophomore Yalim Olcay came off the bench to tie Amius for the team lead in rebounding with six as well in just 10 minutes of action. Olcay added five points as well to his effort.
WCU saw 14 of the 15 dressed Catamounts score at least two points in the game with 11 scoring six or more points. The Catamount defense was impressive as it forced 24 Southern Wesleyan turnovers, which led to 30 points on the WCU offensive end. Senior Deriece Parks led the effort with four steals while Amius chipped in his three.
Freshman Marcus Thomas came off the bench to score 10 points while grabbing five boards as he was the final Catamount in double figures. Freshman Desmond Johnson came up just shy with nine points, five rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals. Senior Devin Peterson and Parks each added eight points on the offensive end.
Johnson, Parks and senior Charlendez Brooks led the squad with four assists each as the team dished out 26 helpers on 41 made baskets. The 26 assists in a game ranks fourth in program history and is the most for WCU in a game since the 2006-07 season when the Catamounts had 31 assists against Atlanta Christian.
The victory moves WCU’s overall record to 9-11 on the season, while the game counts as an exhibition for the Southern Wesleyan squad, who entered the contest with a 2-17 mark.
No Catamount played more than 18 minutes in the game as WCU was able to rest the squad in preparation to this weekend’s tilt with a pair of top Southern Conference foes in Furman and Wofford.
WCU raced out to an 18-2 lead in the opening five minutes of the game and never looked back. The lead never dropped below 10 points the rest of the way as WCU led 51-25 at the half. The Catamounts opened the second half with a 25-7 run to blow the game wide open.
Overall, WCU shot 53.9 percent (41-76) from the field including 43.8 percent (14-32) from 3-point range. The 14 made 3-pointers are a season high for the Catamounts, who had seven made triples in each half. WCU struggled at the line, hitting just 50.0 percent (12-for-24) of its attempts.
The Warriors connected on just 34.4 percent (21-for-61) of their shots from the field, including 20.0 percent (4-for-20) from 3-point range. SWU also struggled at the free-throw line, knocking down just 2-of-8 attempts. Gavin Sears led the way for SWU as he scored 14 points while collecting 10 rebounds.
The Catamounts will now have one day to finalize preparations for the contest at Furman on Saturday. WCU will travel to Greenville, S.C., to face the Paladins Jan. 27 at 4 p.m. Furman sits a half-game ahead of WCU in the conference standings as the Catamounts carry a 4-3 conference mark into the game while the Paladins are 5-3.