CHARLESTON, S.C. — Ashley Williams hit back-to-back 3-pointers to reclaim the lead and Marcus Thomas scored five of his nine points in the final 1:27 as Western Carolina held off The Citadel 81-79 in a Southern Conference opener for both teams on Saturday.

Desmond Johnson led Western Carolina (5-8) with 19 points, eight rebounds and eight steals — all three are career bests. Mike Amius added 12 points, Williams 11 and Marc Gosselin scored nine points with 11 rebounds.

Tariq Simmons scored 16 points to lead The Citadel (5-8) and Matt Frierson added 15, shooting entirely from 3-point range, hitting 5 of 13. The Bulldogs made 13 3-pointers, but put up 44 attempts.

The Citadel jumped out to an early 16-point lead before Western Carolina went on a 25-5 tear in the last 7:32 before halftime, taking advantage of 10 turnovers.

Western Carolina led by as many as 13 midway through the second half before The Citadel caught up, 70-70, after a 15-5 run.

Western Carolina trailed by four before Williams and Thomas turned that around.