Cancun, Mexico –The Western Carolina Catamounts were unable to complete a late rally against Southern Miss as the Golden Eagles claimed a 68-63 win in the third-place game of the Mayan Division bracket in the Cancun Challenge at Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
Southern Miss improves to 4-1 while Western Carolina drops to 1-5.
Carlos Dotson, Kameron Gibson and Onno Steger each finished with 10 points to lead WCU. Dotson had a team-leading eight rebounds. Matt Halvorsen had six rebounds, all on the defensive glass. Dotson, Steger and Halvorsen each had two assists.
Tyree Griffin had a game-high 18 points to lead the Golden Eagles, followed by Cortez Edwards with 17, Dominic Magee with 15 and LaDavius Draine with 13. Griffin converted nine of 11 free throw attempts. Draine had a team-leading eight rebounds.
Western Carolina opened the game on a 10-2 run over the opening 3:12 of the contest aided by 3-pointers from Steger and Halvorsen. Southern Miss answered with a 7-1 run, pulling to within two on an Edwards layup at the 15:24 mark. A pair of Gibson 3-pointers pushed the Catamount advantage to 17-11 before the Golden Eagles tied the contest at 20 on a three-point play with 10:45 remaining. The teams traded the lead four times in the next 3:02 prior to the Golden Eagles staking their claim to a 30-25 lead with 7:10 left in the half. Southern Miss led 36-27 at the 5:50 mark but the Catamounts closed the half on a 10-6 run to trim the deficit to 42-37 at intermission.
A Halvorsen 3-pointer with 16:04 to play brought the Catamounts within two, 46-44. The Golden Eagle lead remained between two and five points until a pair of Griffin free throws gave Southern Miss a 55-48 advantage with just over 10 minutes remaining. Western Carolina responded with an 11-2 run as a Dotson layup gave the Catamounts a 59-57 lead with 5:49 to play. A Dotson free throw gave the Catamounts a 61-60 lead, but Southern Miss answered with five straight points for a 65-61 advantage with 1:58 left. Halvorsen brought WCU within two thanks to a pair of free throws with 1:40 to play but a turnover followed by two missed shots on their final three possessions hurt the Catamounts’ chances to draw even.
The Catamounts went 21-for-49 (42.9 percent) from the field for the game and were a 14-for-23 (60.9 percent) from the field in the first half, which is the best field goal percentage for WCU in a half this season. Southern Miss finished 22-for-51 (43.1 percent) from the field. Western Carolina outrebounded Southern Miss 39-27. Both teams finished the second half with 26 points.
Dotson was named to the All-Tournament team along with Jacksonville State’s Jason Burnell and Jamall Gregory (tournament MVP), North Florida’s JT Escobar and Noah Horchler and Gibson of Southern Miss.
Western Carolina returns to the Ramsey Center on Saturday, welcoming Jacksonville for a 2 p.m. contest.