MACON, Ga. – Western Carolina had five players finish in double figures for the second time this season, but Mercer used a 17-0 second half run and held off a furious Catamount rally for an 84-80 win on Thursday night at Hawkins Arena
Mercer improves to 6-10 overall and 1-3 in the Southern Conference while Western Carolina drops to 4-14 and 1-4.
Carlos Dotson, Marc Gosselin, Matt Halvorsen and Marcus Thomas each scored 14 points, followed by Onno Steger with 10. Dotson and Gosselin both grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Halvorsen dished out a career-high seven assists while Dotson tied a career-high with two blocks.
Ross Cummings scored a game-high 36 points to lead Mercer. Ethan Stair tallied 14 points while Jaylen Stowe finished with 12. Stowe led the Bears with seven rebounds and four steals.
Stair opened the scoring with a 3-pointer at the 18:44 mark before Dotson scored six straight points for a 6-3 lead at the 17:19 mark. On the next Catamount possession, Gosselin was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws for a 9-3 advantage. Following a Josh Cottrell 3-pointer that gave the Catamounts a 14-9 lead, Mercer went on a 5-0 run as a Fardaws Aimaq layup tied the contest with 13:33 remaining.
The teams traded the lead twice along with two ties before Cummings completed a three-point play for a 23-20 Bears lead near the midway point of the half. Stowe gave the hosts a 25-23 lead before Halvorsen was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made two of three free throws to even the contest at 26 with 8:38 left. Stair gave Mercer a 32-30 edge before the Catamounts pulled ahead 36-34 on a Gibson 3-pointer with just over four minutes left. Following a Stowe free throw that cut the Catamount lead to one, WCU went on a 10-2 run for a 46-37 lead with 1:07 to play. Mercer scored the final four points of the half as the Catamounts led 46-41 at halftime.
The Bears opened the second half on a 17-0 run before a Dotson layup made the score 58-48 with 14:25 to play. A Thomas free throw brought the Catamounts within six, 60-54, with 10:48 remaining. Mercer answered with a 7-1 run for a 67-55 lead after a Dimitrijevic layup. The 12-point lead tied Mercer’s largest advantage of the game.
A Steger jumper followed by a 3-pointer on the next WCU possession brought the Catamounts within three, 71-68, with just under five minutes to play in regulation. Stowe sank a pair of free throws to push the Bear lead back to five before Halvorsen hit a 3-pointer to bring the Catamounts within two, 73-71. Cummings extended the Mercer lead to 77-73 but Gosselin completed a three-point play with 1:15 to bring WCU within one, 77-76. A Cummings 3-pointer followed by a Thomas dunk kept the Catamounts within two, 80-78, with 49 seconds left but the Bears answered with a Fardaws layup on their next possession. Thomas’ layup with 10 seconds left brought WCU back within two points before Cummings salted the game away with two free throws on the final Mercer possession.
Western Carolina outrebounded Mercer 37-27. The Bears finished 31-for-55 (56.4 percent) from the field, 9-for-20 (45.0 percent) behind the 3-point line and 13-for-19 at the free throw line. WCU was 27-for-55 (49.1 percent) from the field, 12-for-29 (41.4 percent) behind the arc and 14-for-23 (60.9 percent) at the free throw line.
Western Carolina travels to The Citadel on Saturday for a 1 pm. tip-off.