JOHNSON CITY, TENN. – Kameron Gibson scored a team-leading 23 points, but it wasn’t enough to push the Catamounts past ETSU in an 81-74 loss to the Buccaneers on Saturday afternoon inside Freedom Hall.
ETSU improves to 23-8 overall and 13-5 in the Southern Conference while Western Carolina drops to 7-24 and 4-14.
Gibson led three Catamounts in double figures with 23 points, his fifth game this season with 20-plus points. Marc Gosselin posted his 11th career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Marcus Thomas added 15 points off the bench to finish in double figures for the fifth straight game and had a team-best four assists.
Tray Boyd III led the Buccaneers with a game-high 24 points. Bo Hodges finished with 20 points with Isaiah Tisdale also finishing in double figures with 13 points. Hodges had a team-best seven rebounds as well as four assists.
After a James Harrison layup opened the scoring, Western Carolina went on a 9-0 run capped by a four-point play by Gosselin to lead 9-2 at the 16:48 mark. ETSU answered with nine straight points for an 11-9 advantage after a Hodges layup with just under 14 minutes remaining. The Catamounts enjoyed a 13-11 lead but consecutive 3-pointers by Tisdale gave the Bucs a 17-13 edge. WCU pulled ahead 23-21 after 3-pointers by Gosselin and Gibson with 7:19 remaining. ETSU tied the game at 25 on a Hodges layup and pulled ahead 30-25 on a Boyd III 3-pointer with just inside four minutes remaining in the first stanza. Boyd III pushed the ETSU lead to five, 32-27 before the Catamounts pulled within a point after a Thomas layup with 58 seconds to go. Tisdale completed a three-point play with 4.5 seconds remaining as the Bucs led 34-31 at halftime. The first half featured five ties and six lead changes.
Tisdale drained a 3-pointer 42 seconds into the second half before the Catamounts countered with 3-pointers by Gosselin and Gibson to lead 37-34 at the 17:29 mark. A Boyd jumper with 15:39 to play gave the hosts a 42-39 lead before the Catamounts scored six straight points capped by a pair of Onno Steger free throws for a 45-42 lead at the 13:47 mark. A Thomas layup pushed the Catamounts ahead 50-47 but the Bucs answered with five straight points, taking a 52-50 lead on a Boyd III 3-pointer just before the midpoint of the second half.
Gibson sank a pair of 3-pointers at the 9:24 mark and the 7:41 mark to keep the Catamounts ahead 59-58. With the game tied at 60 and just over five minutes remaining, a Hodges layup sparked a 7-0 run for the Bucs capped by a Jeromy Rodriguez dunk with 3:58 to play. WCU pulled within four, 67-63 as Dotson completed a three-point play on the next Catamount possession before the Buccaneers pushed their lead to a game-high 10 points, 73-63 with 2:03 remaining. The Catamounts cut the deficit to 75-70 after a Thomas dunk with 45.4 seconds remaining before the Buccaneers made three of four free throw attempts on their next two possessions. A pair of Gibson free throws brought the Catamounts back within five with 28 seconds left but the Catamounts would get no closer.
ETSU finished the game 28-for-46 (60.9 percent) from the field, 9-for-17 (52.9 percent) behind the arc and 16-for-32 (50.0 percent) at the free throw line. The Catamounts were 25-for-55 (45.5 percent) from the field, 11-for-23 (47.8 percent) behind the 3-point line and 13-for-15 (86.7 percent) at the free throw line. The Catamounts held a 32-25 advantage in rebounds.
Western Carolina will face VMI in the first round of the Ingles Southern Conference Tournament presented by General Shale on Friday at 5 p.m. in Asheville's US Cellular Center.