By Carey Phillips
Western Carolina’s men’s basketball team picked up its first Southern Conference win of the season 76-75 over Citadel on Feb. 1 at the Ramsey Center.
However, the Catamounts (8-11, 1-9) followed that up with a 74-67 home loss to UT-Chattanooga two days later and a 74-63 loss Saturday in a rematch at Citadel.
Mason Faulkner’s basket with five seconds left lifted WCU to the 76-75 win over Citadel on Feb. 1.
The Bulldogs had taken a 75-74 lead when Tyler Moffe scored at the 1:11 mark.
Faulkner finished with 21 points. Cory Hightower added 16, and Ahmir Langlais had 14.
Kaiden Rice topped Citadel with 17 points. Hayden Brown and Fletcher Abee both had 16.
There were 14 lead changes and eight ties in the second half.
The largest lead of the period was 54-48 with 11:49 on the clock as Rice and Rudy Fitzgibbons both had five in a 10-2 run.
Western answered with a 10-2 spurt, including four by Hightower, to go up 58-56 on Faulkner’s basket at the 8:34 mark.
The Bulldogs held the game’s biggest margin of seven on three occasions in the first half. The last was 27-20 following Abee’s basket with 5:27 on the clock.
Citadel led 35-30 at halftime.
Paced by Xavier Cork with 10, the Cats had a 35-30 rebounding edge.
Completing the WCU scoring were Cork and Tyler Harris both with nine, Matt Halvorsen with four and Tyler McGhie with three.
Malachi Smith scored 22 points Feb. 3 leading UT-C to a 74-67 conference win at the Ramsey Center. David Jean-Baptiste and Darius Banks both finished with 18, and K.C. Hankton had 11.
Cork topped WCU with 18 points. He was joined in double figures by Faulkner with 13, Halvorsen with 12, and Harris and Hightower with 11 apiece.
The Cats held their biggest lead at 45-37 following Hightower’s free throw with 14:26 left in the game.
The Mocs responded with eight straight points, half of those by Smith, for a 45-45 tie with 12:37 on the clock.
UT-C’s first lead was 49-48 on Smith’s layup at the 10:21 mark.
Moments later the Mocs went ahead for good at 53-52 as Jean-Baptiste scored with 8:33 to play. That started a 13-2 spurt, including nine by Jean-Baptiste, for a 64-54 advantage on Hankton’s basket with 3:41 remaining.
Western led 24-17 on Hightower’s three-pointer with 7:47 to play in the first half.
UT-C tied it 28-28 at halftime on Jean-Baptiste’s trey with 39 seconds left.
McGhie had WCU’s only two points off the bench.
In Saturday’s rematch, Brown scored 21 points and claimed 15 rebounds leading Citadel to the 74-63 win. Rice added 19 points, followed by Moffe with 14 and Derek Webster with 12.
Faulkner and Hightower scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, for the Cats.
Halvorsen, who finished with nine points, hit a pair of three-pointers giving him 279 for his career. That broke the school record of 278 set by Jake Robinson.
Citadel led from the opening basket except for a 22-22 tie on Kameron Gibson’s fastbreak layup with 6:41 on the clock.
Brown’s two foul shots gave his team the lead for good, 24-22, at the 5:31 mark.
The lead reached 31-24 on Moffe’s three-pointer with 2:45 to play, and the Bulldogs were in front 35-30 at halftime.
Ten consecutive points, including a pair of three-pointers by Rice, upped the margin to 53-38 with 13:51 left in the game.
Faulkner’s layup cut the gap to 62-58 with 4:14 on the clock.
Citadel regained control with a 10-1 run, including six by Webster, for a 72-59 margin on Brown’s layup at the 1:10 mark.
Rounding out the WCU scoring were Gibson with seven, Harris with six, Cork with four and Daniel Ransom with two.