Cullowhee, N.C. (Jan. 12, 2002) - ETSU sophomore foreward Lauren Trantham (Asheville, N.C.) scored a career-high 20 points, but it was not enough as Western Carolina defeated the Lady Bucs 85-79 Saturday afternoon in Southern Conference action at the Ramsey Activity Center in Cullowhee, N.C.
With the win, Western improves to 10-4 overall, which is its best start since going 10-4 to open the 1980-81 season. The Catamounts level their SoCon record to 3-3 for the season. East Tennessee State falls to 7-8 overall and 2-4 in the SoCon.
Western Carolina center Laura Echols scored 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting and pulled down 11 rebounds, while adding three assists. It additionally marked her fourth double-double in the past five games and the sixth time the league's leading scorer has posted at least 25 points in a game this season. Also playing a key role in the win was Catamount reserve Jennifer Gardner. She only played nine minutes due to foul trouble, but scored a career-high 11 points. Sophomore Tiffany Hamm nearly recorded her second
consecutive double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds. The Harlan, Ky., native also tied for game-high honors with four assists.
Trantham's 20 points is nearly 10 points above her season average. She was 8-of-9 from the field and 4-of-4 at the line. Also scoring double figures for ETSU were Megan Jackson (Paris, Tenn.) and Erin Thurman (Hixson, Tenn. with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Western Carolina jumped out to an early 6-0 lead and did not surrender the advantage until 9:49 when Candace Gibson (Warner Robins, Ga.) hit a layup to give the Bucs a 22-20 lead. The game featured five ties over the next six minutes. With the game knotted at 31 with 3:33 left in the first half, Western went on a 9-1 run to lead 40-32 with 32 seconds left. However a
3-pointer by ETSU's Leslie Burleson (Buladean, N.C.) and a layup by Misty Copas (Kingsport, Tenn.) with two seconds left cut the WCU advantage to only three, 40-37, at the break.
The Catamounts once again began the half on a positive note. After Western took its largest lead of the second half - a seven point advantage - with 17:26 left, ETSU would go on a 15-3 run to lead by five, 54-49, at the 13:06 mark. Trantham scored six points to spark the
run. A Hamm jumper with 12 minutes to go cut the ETSU lead to one and no team would lead by more than three over the next four minutes. At that
point, Catamount senior Katie Scott drained her first 3-pointer of the season to give WCU a 65-61 lead with 7:39 left.
East Tennessee tied the game up at 69 with 5:37 left on a Gibson layup. Echols immediately answered for the Cats and Western would not surrender the lead the remainder of the contest. Yoneko Allen made 4-of-6 free throws for WCU inside the final 30 seconds to seal the victory.
East Tennessee State will return to action on Monday, hosting UNC Greensboro at 7 pm.