By: Steven Grandy
Lexington, Va.- Senior Carlos Dotson, redshirt junior Mason Faulkner, and junior Matt Halvorsen each finished with 20 points as Western Carolina secured a 97-85 victory over VMI in Southern Conference action on Wednesday night at Cameron Hall.
Western Carolina improves to 11-3 on the year and is in sole possession of second place in the Southern Conference with a 3-0 record. This is the first time the Catamounts have won their first three league games since winning four straight SoCon games in 2012-13. VMI drops to 5-12 and 0-4.
Dotson tallied his seventh double-double of the year, adding 13 rebounds, 11 of which came on the defensive glass. Faulkner had his second-straight double-double with 10 rebounds and just missed his second triple-double of the year with nine assists. Freshman Tyler Harris contributed 13 points off the bench. Onno Steger was the fifth Catamount in double figures with 10 points.
Garrett Gilkeson paced six VMI players in double figures with 18 points. Myles Lewis and Jake Stephens both had 13 points while Kamdyn Curfman and Travis Evee had 11 points. Greg Parham was the final Keydet in double figures with 10 points.
A Gilkesen 3-pointer opened the scoring 27 seconds into the contest as the hosts took a 6-2 lead in the opening minute following a Stephens 3-pointer. Dotson completed a three-point play at the 18:36 mark to bring the Catamounts within one before the Keydets went on an 8-2 run for a 14-7 lead thanks to a Curfman bucket with 16:36 remaining. Gilkeson put the hosts up a first half-best nine points, 20-11, before WCU answered with a 10-2 run capped by a Dotson layup at the 10:09 mark that made the score 22-21 in favor of VMI. With the Keydets leading 24-21, WCU used a 10-0 run capped by a Marcus Thomas fastbreak layup for a 31-24 advantage with just under five minutes remaining. WCU took a 38-33 lead into halftime.
Dotson extended the Catamount lead to eight, 41-33, just over 90 seconds into the second half only to have the Keydets use a 9-2 run capped by an Evee jumper at the 14:55 mark to trim the Catamount lead to 46-44. Harris’ layup with just over 13 minutes remaining extended the WCU advantage to 10 points, 56-46. The Catamount lead oscillated between five and 10 points over the next 10 minutes until a Stephens 3-pointer brought the hosts within four, 84-80, with 2:40 left. The Keydets would get no closer the rest of the way as WCU, sparked by a long Halvorsen 3-pointer and Dotson transitional lay-up on the ensuing possession, allowed WCU to outscore VMI 13-5 down the stretch.
The Catamounts shot 50 percent from the floor while VMI finished 39.5 percent from the field. WCU held a 47-39 rebounding advantage and tallied 42 points in the paint.
WCU returns to the Ramsey Center on Saturday, hosting Mercer at 5 p.m. in the second half of a Catamount hoops doubleheader.