By Carey Phillips
Western Carolina’s men’s basketball team played its first three games of the season last week at UNC-Asheville’s Kimmel Arena.
The Catamounts opened with a win over UNC-Wilmington. Playing in the Mako Medical Asheville Classic, they lost to Troy and beat UNC-A in overtime.
Western had three players score at least 20 points and pulled away in the second half for a 98-76 win over UNC-W the day before Thanksgiving. Xavier Cork totaled 22 points, followed closely by Mason Faulkner with 21 and Matt Halvorsen with 20. Travion McCray added 11 points.
UNC-W’s Jaylen Sims led all scorers with 27. Jake Boggs netted 17 for the Seahawks, and Ty Gadsden had 13.
WCU shot 64.7 percent from the floor in the second half and 56.3 percent for the game. UNC-W was limited to 37.1 percent.
The Cats took control with a 16-1 run, including nine by Cork, to lead 71-53 on Faulkner’s layup with 8:59 on the clock.
The margin reached 80-55 on Halvorsen’s fast break layup at the 5:16 mark.
The first half was close with a couple of ties and three lead changes. The largest lead of the period was 10 on three occasions. The last was 36-26 when WCU’s Ahmir Langlais hit two foul shots with 3:56 on the clock.
Western led 44-40 at halftime.
Completing the WCU scoring were Tyler Harris with nine, Sin’Cere McMahon with five, Langlais and Josh Massey both with four, and Tyler McGhie with two.
Led by Faulkner with seven, the Cats won the rebounding battle 34-22.
Troy edged WCU 66-64 Friday in the first game of the Mako Medical Asheville Classic. Kam Woods scored 20 points for the Trojans, and Zay Williams had 15.
McCray topped the Cats with 14 points. Also in double figures were Faulkner with 13, Halvorsen with 11 and Cork with 10.
Western led 41-30 with 11:44 left in the game after a foul shot by McCray.
Troy reeled off 10 straight points, including four by Woods, to go up 51-48 with 6:58 on the clock.
WCU went back in front 56-55 on Harris’ two free throws at the 4:56 mark.
Two foul shots by Williams gave the Trojans the lead for good, 57-56, with 4:38 to play.
Troy sprinted to an 11-2 lead on Khalyl Waters’ three-pointer with 15:43 to go in the first half.
Eight unanswered points, including five by McMahon, cut the gap to 11-10 at the 13:53 mark.
The Cats’ first lead was 18-15 on McCray’s three-pointer with 6:35 on the clock.
It was 26-26 at halftime.
Both teams struggled with their shooting. The Trojans made 37.7 percent of their attempts, and the Cats hit 35.6 percent.
Rounding out the WCU scoring were McMahon with seven, Harris with five, and Langlais and Marcus Thomas with two apiece.
Western let a 20-point lead in the second half get away Saturday before pulling out an 83-81 win over UNC-A in overtime.
Halvorsen scored 21 points followed by Cork with 16, Faulkner with 15 and McCray with 11.
Tajion Jones led the Bulldogs with 24 points. Jamon Battle netted 18 points and claimed 10 rebounds. L.J. Thorpe added 12 points, and Trent Stephney had 11.
The Cats led 54-34 on Langlais’ layup with 15:17 left in the game.
UNC-A used a 15-2 run, including five by Stephney, cutting the gap to 56-49 at the 10:08 mark.
The Bulldogs kept the pressure on and took a 71-69 edge on Thorpe’s two foul shots with 27 seconds left.
Cork’s follow shot at the buzzer tied it 71-71.
Halvorsen’s three free throws with 4:07 to play in the extra period put WCU ahead to stay 74-73.
He made a crucial three-pointer for an 80-75 edge with 52 seconds on the clock.
A 10-2 spurt, including four each by Cork and Langlais, gave Western a 37-25 lead with 2:39 to play in the first half.
The margin grew to 44-28 at intermission.
Completing the WCU scoring were Langlais with eight, Thomas with six, Harris with four, and McMahon and Massey both with one.