By Carey Phillips
Western Carolina and Citadel went back and forth Saturday before the Catamounts (10-3, 2-0) emerged with an 86-82 Southern Conference men’s basketball victory.
A crowd of 1,056 at Citadel’s McAlister Field House saw WCU’s Onno Steger pour in 28 points while hitting eight of 12 three-pointers. He received scoring support from Mason Faulkner with 19, Kameron Gibson with 12 and Carlos Dotson with 10.
Dotson also had 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Fletcher Abee and Tyson Batiste both scored 18 points for the Bulldogs. Kaiden Rice added 13, and Eddie Davis had 10.
There were 15 lead changes and seven ties in the game. Neither team led by more than seven points.
Citadel was up 62-56 on Abee’s three-pointer with 16:35 left in the game.
Western went on an 11-2 run, including seven by Faulkner, to lead 67-64 with 10:53 on the clock.
WCU’s biggest lead of the second half was 78-72 as Faulkner made one of two foul shots at the 5:52 mark.
The Bulldogs fought back and took an 82-81 edge on Abee’s trey with 55 seconds left.
Dotson’s layup with 46 seconds to play put the Cats ahead for good, 83-82. His two foul shots made it 85-82 with 21 seconds remaining.
Faulkner went one of two from the line with 10 seconds to go, and Citadel missed three-pointers on its final two possessions.
The first half was much the same. Nine unanswered points, including five by Rice, gave the Bulldogs the game’s largest lead, 16-9, at the 15:07 mark.
Western pulled into a 20-20 tie as Gibson hit a three-pointer with 12:39 on the clock.
Steger’s five points keyed a 10-2 spurt for a 38-33 lead at the 7:02 mark.
Citadel went up 48-47 on Alex Reed’s layup with 1:22 remaining and held a 51-49 halftime edge.
WCU shot 46.8 from the floor and made 15 of 34 three-pointers. The Bulldogs hit 50 percent of their attempts and were eight of 28 from long range.
The Cats won the rebounding battle 39-35. Davis had seven for Citadel.
Western committed 12 turnovers, and the Bulldogs had 11.
Completing the WCU scoring were Matt Halvorsen and Xavier Cork with six apiece and Travion McCray with five.