Cullowhee, N.C. – It's been 36 years since the Golden Eagles won the battle of the purple and gold, and after losing last season in the Eblen Center to Western Carolina, Saturday's road win over the Catamounts tasted even sweeter. Tech defeated Western Carolina 61-56 thanks to a strong second half performance. The Golden Eagles shot 51.1% from the floor including a 66.7% shooting performance in the second half.
The Golden Eagles felt right at home in Cullowhee as purple and gold adorned the arena. Add in 50 screaming band members and a hostile crowd, and it appeared the Western Carolina would hold a home court advantage. But Tech's Purple Pride outshone the Catamounts as nothing fazed the strong Golden Eagle squad.
Leading the squad was Diamond Henderson with 16 points and four assists. Tech went into the locker room at half time trailing by two, but Henderson came out on fire driving to the hoop and drawing a foul for the three-point play and then draining a three-pointer for five unanswered points. With the momentum in Tech's favor, the shots just started to fall. Down by seven, the Golden Eagles went on an 11-3 run thanks to back-to-back three's from senior Kylie Cook, putting the Golden Eagles up 41-37.
Tech's play kept stretching the lead and at just past the four minute mark, the Golden Eagles held a 10-point lead over Western Carolina. The Catamounts would make what seemed to be a big shot, with the chance of a swing in momentum, but Tech would silence the crowd and stifle any chance of a comeback with the simple swoosh of the net. Tech missed only one shot in the final four minutes of the game and the game appeared to be all but one.
There was one factor that Tech hadn't anticipated, Lindsay Simpson. Simpson had only played five minutes the entire game but she drained three three-pointers in the final minutes of the game to keep the Catamounts in the game. With 25 seconds remaining in the game, Jala Harris found Molly Heady wide open in a press break for a lay-up, giving Tech a 59-53 lead.
The deal appeared to be sealed, but Simpson again drained another three to bring Western Carolina within three. Lashay Davis was fouled in the next possession, and drained a foul shot putting the Golden Eagles up four. Simpson would get another attempt from behind the arc, but the shot wouldn't fall and another free throw from Kylie Cook gave Tech the win.
Heady joined Henderson in double-digits, scoring 10 and grabbing a season high seven boards. Harris, Davis, and Kylie Cook each added eight points. Harris and Davis recorded four and two assists respectively, with Davis grabbing three steals.
The Golden Eagles are on a two-game win streak and will return to action Saturday, December 15 in New York City. Tech will face St. John's in the tip-off game of the St. John's Chartwells Holiday Classic. Tip-off is set for 11:00 a.m. CT.