Western Carolina (15-17) vs. Wofford (19-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 3, 2:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Cellular Center (7,654) -- Asheville, North Carolina. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: WCU 9-4, Wofford 11-2. Away Record: WCU 4-12, Wofford 7-9. Neutral Record: WCU 2-1, Wofford 1-1. Conference Record: WCU 8-10, Wofford 12-6. Series Record: Western Carolina leads, 23-19.
GAME NOTES: The third-seeded Western Carolina Catamounts will try to knock off the two-time defending champion Wofford Terriers as the two programs square off at the U.S. Cellular Center in the quarterfinal round of 2012 Southern Conference Tournament.
The Catamounts and Terriers split the season series, as each team won on its home court. Western Carolina earned a 67-57 victory on Jan. 7 in Cullowhee. Wofford returned the favor on Jan. 30 in Spartanburg as it decisively defeated WCU, 82-56. The Catamounts hold a 23-19 lead in the all-time series.
Western Carolina came into the SoCon Tournament as the hottest team in the league with four straight victories. The Catamounts built on that momentum in their first-round affair on Friday as they defeated The Citadel, 68-56, behind 12-of-27 shooting from three-point range. The strong long-range effort was not too shocking, as Western Carolina has hit 34.2 percent of its attempts from downtown this season. WCU has outscored its opponents by a slight 0.6 ppg margin this season.
Harouna Mutombo appeared to be playing with a sense of urgency on Friday as his collegiate career inches closer to its conclusion. Mutombo led three Catamounts in double figures with 21 points versus The Citadel. Trey Sumler and Keaton Cole both played very well in the first-round win. Sumler scored 18 points, Cole netted 14 points, and they each dished out six assists. Cole was the key to success for WCU in its win over Wofford in the initial meeting between the teams this season, as the sophomore guard knocked down 6-of-7 from three-point range to bury the Terriers.
Wofford earned the second seed in the South by finishing the regular season with a 19-12 overall record and a 12-6 mark in SoCon action. Only the conference-leading Davidson Wildcats have more wins overall and in league play than the Terriers. Wofford has won the last two SoCon Tournaments, which has given it a six-game win streak in the event coming into today. The concept of a return to the NCAA Tournament after the loss of four starters from last year's team seemed lofty, but coach Mike Young has his squad in a great position, as it will not have to face a team with a winning record until the championship game. The Terriers have found success by slowing down the opposition, the team allowing a league-low 62.1 ppg.
The Terriers' senior backcourt combo of Brad Loesing and Kevin Giltner is responsible for most of their success this season. As if Loesing's impressive averages of 14.5 points and 5.5 assists per game were not enough, he was recently named the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year. Giltner was named an All-SoCon performer after finishing first on the team and fifth in the league in scoring with 15.3 ppg. Karl Cochran also received recognition for a stellar season, as the rookie guard was named the SoCon Freshman of the Year after netting 11.3 ppg.
Wofford's quest for a third title in a row is not going to be easy. WCU already defeated the Terriers once this season, which should only add to the confidence it has as a result of its current winning streak. Although the Catamounts might not win, they will fare much better than they did in their 23-point loss to Wofford.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wofford 72, Western Carolina 63
03/03 10:38:48 ET