Catamounts overcome slow start to defeat the Citadel in opening round of SoCon Tournament

Trey Sumler leads Western Carolina to a 76-61 victory over the Citadel in the opening round of the Southern Conference tournament. (Photo by: Jake Meyers)

Western Carolina had little trouble defeating the Citadel in the opening round of the SoCon tournament behind Trey Sumler’s game-high 27 points on Friday, Mar. 8, at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, NC. The catamounts advance to the second round for a Saturday showdown with the cougars from College of Charleston.

With having almost a week off since Mike Browns buzzer beater to defeat Samford, the Catamounts got off to a sluggish start to open their 2013 tournament campaign. However, the Catamounts used a couple of defensive dandies to shake off the cobwebs. Tawaski King swatted a shot into the stands sending the Catamount faithful into a frenzy, and Kenny Hall followed with a defensive gem of his own when he pinned a Bulldog shot against the glass leading to a fast break opportunity for the catamounts. Western Carolina then turned up the heat on the offensive side as they looked to who else other than Trey Sumler. Sumler found his offensive groove as he netted 15 first half points including a dagger just before time expired in the first half.

The Catamount defense held tough as they were able to keep double-double machine Mike Groselle of the Citadel bottled up for most of the first half, holding him to just 4 points. Groselle eventually got involved in the offense as he finished with 13 points while grabbing 6 rebounds but the damage had already been done as the game was all but decided.

“We were concerned that when Tawaski got himself in foul trouble, we would have a tough time containing Groselle, but he really stepped up for us and did a great job keeping tabs on him,” said Head Coach Larry Hunter.

Sophomore James Sinclair stepped up in a big way on his way to a 14 point, 6 rebound performance. Sinclair also had sticky fingers as he came up with 3 steals. The Catamounts also received a helping hand from Tom Tankelewicz as he chipped in 11 points, while shooting 2-5 from downtown. However, it was Trey Sumler’s spotlight as he finished with a game high 27 points leading the Catamounts to a 76-61 victory.

“Trey was terrific in both halves. I’ve had the privilege of having this kid for four years. He is something special, I love him,” Hunter said.

The Catamounts advance to the second round of the SoCon tournament for a date with College of Charleston. The Catamounts and Cougars will go head-to-head as tip-off is set for 8:30pm Saturday.