CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Western Carolina built a 15-point lead in the first half and held on in the second half as the Catamounts downed UNC Asheville 74-67 at the Ramsey Center Monday night.
The Bulldogs (0-2) were led by a career-high 24 points from freshman guard Andrew Roswey. He was 6-of-12 from the three-point line and went 9-of-20 from the field. Senior center D.J. Cunningham enjoyed the first double-double of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He also blocked four shots.
WCU (2-0) was led by James Sinclair with 17 points, while Tawaski King and Tom Tankelewicz with 14 points each.
“We didn’t play well in the first half, and Western Carolina made us pay,” stated first-year coach Nick McDevitt. “Our guys did a great job battling back in the second half and never giving up but you can’t give a team the caliber of Western Carolina a 15-point lead and expect to come all the way back.”
The Catamounts held a 38-37 edge on the board and accumulated 21 offensive rebounds.
“We gave up way too many offensive rebounds and that shouldn’t have happened with the height advantage we had on Western Carolina,” explained McDevitt. “They had too many second-chance points.”
WCU led 20-17 at the six-minute mark of the first before seizing control of the game with a 14-3 run over the next three minutes. Fueling the run was seven second-chance points plus six points off three Asheville turnovers to allow the home team to take a 34-20 lead with 3:15 left.
A dunk from Justin Browning pushed the lead to 38-23 before the Bulldogs scored the final four points of the half to close to 38-27 at halftime.
Asheville shot a cool .325 (8-of-25) from the field in the opening half, while WCU knocked down .441 (15-of-34) of its shots. King led the Cats with 12 points in the opening half.
The Bulldogs had 11 turnovers in the opening half which led to 13 points for the Catamounts.
Asheville fought back early in the second half as Cunningham had six early points to quickly get the Dogs within 43-38 with 14:19 remaining.
But that was close as the Bulldogs could get for most of the way. WCU would get the lead back to 57-45 on a Sinclair dunk at the 8:49 mark.
Asheville refused to go away as Rowsey scored 10 points in the final eight minutes. His trey with eight seconds left cut the WCU lead to 72-67 before WCU hit two free throws to seal the victory.
Rowsey scored 15 points in the second half on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Cunningham added 12 points and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe.
The Cats had 10 offensive rebounds and went 5-of-8 from long distance to help keep the Bulldogs at bay.
UNC Asheville travels to College of Charleston Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
D.J. Cunningham’s double-double (18 points, 12 rebounds) was the ninth of his career. He collected 10 rebounds at Kentucky Friday night and 12 against WCU. It marked the first time he has gone back-to-back with double-figure rebounds since his freshman year when he accomplished that against VMI and Presbyterian College. Cunningham grabbed double-figures in rebounds for the 19th time in his career.
D.J. Cunningham blocked four shots on Monday to give him 186 career blocks. He needs five to move past C.J. Walker (190) into second place on the school’s career list.
Andrew Rowsey’s 24 points was the most by a freshman guard since K.J. Garland scored 27 points at Iowa in the 2003-04 season.
Sam Hughes blocked a career-high two shots on Monday night.
Sophomore forward Will Weeks led the Bulldogs in assists with four. Weeks also had a team-high three assists and pulled down seven rebounds.