CULLOWHEE, N.C.--Western Carolina's four seniors combined for 56 points in their final game suiting up in front of the home folks, as the Catamounts overcame a one-point halftime deficit (28-27) for a 73-62 win in the regular-season Southern Conference finale over Furman Saturday afternoon at the Ramsey Center. The win helped the Catamounts to their seventh win in their final eight games of the season.
It marks the first time that the Purple and Gold have closed the season with seven wins in their final eight games since the 2011-12 season, which saw the Catamounts advance all the way to the title game before losing a heartbreaker to Davidson in double-overtime.
With the win, Western Carolina (15-16, 10-8 SoCon) clinches the No. 5 seed for the Southern Conference Tournament next Saturday and will play in the 2:30 p.m. contest against No. 4 Wofford (15-16, 11-7 SoCon). Furman (17-14, 11-7 SoCon) will play at 8:30 as the No. 3 seed against the No. 6 seed, which will likely be determined tomorrow when Mercer and UNC Greensboro square off at the Greensboro Coliseum in a 2 p.m. contest.
Western Carolina got 19 points from seniors Torrion Brummitt and Mike Brown, while Rhett Harrelson adding 11 points, with nine coming on three first-half triples. Brummitt just narrowly missed his third double-double in as many games, completing the contest with nine boards. Brummitt was an impressive 8-of-11 from the field and was 3-of-4 from the charity stripe.
Meanwhile, Brown completed the contest going 6-of-13 from the field and finished 3-for-6 from three-point range and 4-for-4 from the charity stripe . Brown had a special Senior Day in front of the Catamount faithful adding six boards, six assists and a steal to his 19-point final total. Rounding out the strong performances for the quartet of Catamount seniors was Justin Browning, who posted seven points, four assists and three blocks.
Furman was limited for much of the contest, playing without SoCon All-Freshman candidate Matt Rafferty, who went out of the lineup early on with a sprained ankle and did not return to the lineup.
Three Paladin players combined for 53 of the team's 62 points in the contest, including 42 from the backcourt alone. Leading the way was Knoxville, Tenn. native Devin Sibley, who posted 24 points, while senior All-SoCon guard Stephen Croone added 18. The only other Paladin in double figures was Kris Acox, who posted 11 points, 10 boards, two steals and two blocks, finishing with his sixth-straight double-figure scoring performance. Sibley's 24 points marked a season-high in scoring for the 2015 SoCon Freshman of the Year.
Despite missing Rafferty for much of the game, the Paladins carried a 28-27 lead into the break. However, with Western leading 56-55 following a Sibley layup with 7:25 remaining, an 11-2 run over the next 4:53 in the contest helped the Catamounts to a 67-57 lead with 2:32 remaining. Furman would cut the Catamount lead to six (68-62) on a Sibley jumper with 1:01 remaining, but the Catamounts closed out the final minute with a 5-0 run to split the season series with the Paladins, avenging an a 62-60 loss in Greenville last month.
The key stat in the contest was bench scoring, which saw the Catamounts out-score the Furman bench by a 22-5 margin in the win.