Cats fight by Samford for fifth straight win

The Catamount men’s basketball team successfully defended the confines of the Ramsey Center again Saturday afternoon with a 67-64 victory, extending their home record to a flawless 8-0.

An upset-minded Samford team – searching for their first win ever in Cullowhee – didn’t make things easy on the Cats, however.

The Bulldogs jogged to the locker rooms with a three-point lead at halftime.

But the tide quickly shifted in the second half.

The Cats played ferocious defense, aggressively forcing mistakes. They knocked down six unanswered points to start the half, taking a lead that they would not surrender.

The defensive intensity was constant throughout the half, particularly beyond the arc. After giving up five three-pointers in the first half, the Cats didn’t allow any in the second.

With just over six minutes left in regulation, the Cats were in control with a ten point lead. Yet, the game was far from over.

Coach Hunter (far right) coaching from the sidelines during Saturday's action. Photo by: Ryan Keys

“They [Samford] just wouldn’t go away,” Catamounts Head Coach Larry Hunter said. “They were in a great mindset, and they just weren’t going to be denied today.”

Samford slowly chipped away at the lead, cutting it down to two with less than two minutes left. Fortunately for the Cats, they had just enough left in the tank to hold on.

“A year ago, we probably wouldn’t have won that game,” Hunter said. “We were able to find a way to win it.”

It is a sentiment that speaks volumes about the maturation of this group of players.

The Cats were plagued by both turnovers and fouls, but not once did frustration get the better of them.

Instead they kept working, and the effort paid dividends.

The team scrapped down low, bringing down 15 offensive rebounds, including several late in the game.

The work on the glass played a vital role, as it was a rough night for many of the Catamount scorers.

The Cullowhee crowd was as raucous as ever, setting the season-high for attendance.

“You’re not coming in our house and taking a win,” said senior guard Brandon Boggs. “You’re leaving with an L.”

Senior Brandon Boggs attempting a second half layup. Photo by: Ryan Keys

The victory maintains the Cats explosive start to conference play, extending their Southern Conference record to 4-0.

It is the third time the team has started off conference play with four straight wins. The team accomplished the same feat last season.

“You can build off of it,” Boggs said. “You’ve got to stay motivated. Just let this game motivate you to play better the next game.”

Despite the success, the team hungers for more. Tight contests in their past two conference games have kept their focus razor sharp.

“We have a great league, and there’s a long way to go yet,” Hunter said. “A lot of good basketball coming.”

With Wofford and Davidson next on the schedule, the path won’t be getting easier any time soon.