Catamounts overpower Wittenberg to open season

The Western Carolina men’s basketball team began the 2013-2014 campaign Friday night with a 77-55 win over Wittenberg University in the Ramsey Center.

Four Catamounts scored in double figures, including a game-high 15-points from senior guard Tom Tankelewicz on 5-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range.  Junior guard James Sinclair, who started at point guard in place of preseason All-Southern Conference player Trey Sumler, tallied 13 points, four assists, and a career-high four steals.

Sumler did not play in the game.

A trio of sophomores in Mike Brown, Torrion Brummitt, and Rhett Harrelson sparked a 30-point effort from the Catamount bench.  Brummitt, a 6-7 forward out of Columbus, Ga.,  had the best game of his young career, posting career-highs in points (12) and rebounds (6).  Brown, who established himself on the offensive end in the latter half of last season, scored 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting and added three assists.  Harrelson scored five points and chipped in another three assists.

Justin Browning goes up for his fast-break dunk. Photo by Ashley Evans, WCU Public Relations.

The feel-good story of the night came courtesy of another sophomore player.  Forward Justin Browning, who saw limited action last season, made his presence felt on the defensive end with three blocks and three steals.  He also had the highlight of the night when he stole the ball from Cody Phillippi and flushed home a one-handed dunk.

“I thought our depth in the first half with Mike Brown, Rhett Harrelson, Justin Browning, and Torrion Brummitt is when we opened up the lead to double-digits,” said head coach Larry Hunter.  “They did a good job [in the first half].”

With 12:10 remaining in the first half, Hunter inserted his bench with the score in favor of Wittenberg 13-10.  WCU scored ten straight points, including the dunk from Browning.  The Catamounts didn’t look back and outscored Wittenberg 25-12 the rest of the half.

Wittenberg, who finished 17-10 a season ago in Division III, shot 10-of-25 from 3-point range.  Steven Newell scored nine points, including three 3-pointers, but Wittenberg did not have a player score in double figures.

The Catamounts defense stifled Wittenberg and scored 32 points off 21 Tiger turnovers.  Western also added 14 steals and seven blocks.

Offensively, WCU shot 49 percent from the field, including 6-of-20 from behind the arc, and outscored the Tigers 28-16 in the paint.  They also committed 12 turnovers.

“We had too many careless turnovers in the second half, and we need to clean that up a little bit,” said coach Hunter, who spent 13 seasons as the head coach at Wittenberg – his first stint as a head coach.  “It is a good opener, a good win for us and a good start.”

The Catamounts play host to UNC-Asheville Monday night at 7 p.m. in the Ramsey Center before taking a 10-day, six game road trip that begins with a visit to the No. 19/18 Oregon Ducks on November 13.


Information from the Catamounts Sports Web Site was used in this report.