On Sunday, Nov. 12, Western Carolina University’s women’s basketball team defeated the University of North Carolina at Asheville 62-52 in the Ramsey Center. Three Catamounts scored in the double digits as Western Carolina cruised to their first victory of the season.
Seniors Sherae Bonner and Kyia Hough, as well as junior Raziyah Farrington, each put up double-digit points, carrying the Catamounts from an early deficit to a comfortable victory. Bonner added another double-double to her illustrious career at Western Carolina, scoring 18 points and collecting 14 rebounds. Bonner added four blocks to her stat sheet, climbing higher in Western Carolina’s record books.
The Catamounts shot 50 percent from the floor, while holding their opponents to only 31 percent. With shooting like that, the Catamounts separated themselves from Asheville with a stellar second quarter, outscoring Asheville 18-9. Asheville kept the game interesting in the third quarter, but Western Carolina closed the game out with a 22-point fourth quarter.
All five starters for Western Carolina played upwards of 25 of the available 40 minutes of the game. Each starter registered seven or more points in an excellent game for the Catamount first-team offense.
On Wednesday, Nov. 15, the Catamounts lost a physical battle to Eastern Kentucky University, 62-59. This dropped the Catamounts to a record of 1-2, and ended the stretch of three games at home.
The Ramsey Center was alive with an energetic crowd of 1,491 for the noontime tip-off, thanks to local elementary schools’ participation in Western Carolina’s Education Day. The children led rallying cheers when the Catamounts were on defense and provided extra volume whenever possible.
The Catamounts trailed for much of the game, with their largest deficit being 14 in the third quarter. With the starters not getting the results, Coach Stephanie McCormick encouraged the bench to make a difference. These players responded to her call; players coming off the bench combined for 22 points.
McCormick spoke highly of her players after the loss. “The positive takeaway is our young kids coming in off the bench and giving us a spark and proving that they could handle that kind of heated situation.”
The game certainly was heated, involving 42 combined fouls. Three players fouled out; two from Eastern Kentucky and one from Western Carolina. The Catamounts fought through the fouls and responded with intensity. Without this toughness, Eastern Kentucky would have run away with the game.
McCormick highlighted the efforts of redshirt freshman Erykah Russell and Junior Angel Allen, specifically. Russell broke onto the scene in what was her first full division one game. After breaking her foot in the preseason last year, Russell redshirted and sat out until this season. She was sick for the first two games, but came out strong in this game, putting up eight points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes.
Allen also came into the game as a substitute, registering seven points and a steal. Down three points, with the clock running out, Allen took the final shot. Under duress, she narrowly missed, falling just short of completing the Catamount comeback.
Even so, McCormick was “really proud of the way Allen is accepting her role and embracing it. She is giving us everything she can with it.”
After this run of home games, the Catamounts went on the road for a difficult stretch against the University of Georgia and the incumbent NCAA Championship winners, South Carolina.
McCormick’s main focus for these next games was blunt: “We’ve got to get better. Our main focus is bouncing back from this one, correcting why we couldn’t defend and why we came out so flat. Just being more consistent and being better from start to finish.”
Follow Western Carolina’s women’s basketball team at www.catamountsports.com as they find their form before conference play begins.