Western Carolina holds off Samford, wins 75-71

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Keaton Cole hit his fourth 3-pointer of the night with less than two minutes to play, enabling Western Carolina to hold off Samford 75-71 Thursday night in the Southern Conference opener for both teams.

Cole's 3-pointer, his fourth of the game, came shortly after Samford (1-4) drew within 66-65 with 1:47 to play. The Bulldogs had battled back to take a 50-45 lead midway through the second half. But Western Carolina (4-4) regained control behind Cole and Brandon Boggs.

Boggs led the Catamounts (4-4) with 17 points and had six rebounds. Still, Western Carolina needed Cole's late 3-point heroics to stave off Samford. Freshman Devin McNeil scored a career-high 19 points for the Bulldogs, including three 3-point baskets -- the last a buzzer-beater from halfcourt. Sophomore center Drew Windler had a career-high 20 points.

But after Cole's last 3-pointer, Samford never got closer than four points.