CULLOWHEE, N.C. – The Mercer Bears used a 17-0 run in the latter stages of the first half and held off a late Western Carolina rally to earn a 74-65 win over the Catamounts on Thursday night at the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center.
Mercer improves to 9-16 overall and 4-9 in the Southern Conference while Western Carolina drops to 6-21 and 3-11.
Kameron Gibson finished in double figures for the ninth straight game with a team-best 16 points. Carlos Dotson had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Marcus Thomas tallied 11 points while Josh Cottrell finished in double figures for the third time in his career with 10 points.
Ross Cummings scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Bears. Victor Bafutto also finished in double figures with 13 points.
Marc Gosselin got the Catamounts on the board with a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the game as the Catamounts opened the game on an 8-0 run capped by a Steger three-point play at the 16:43 mark. Mercer answered with 11 straight points as they gained an 11-8 advantage on an Ethan Stair jumper with just under 12 minutes to go. The teams had four ties and three lead changes over the next three minutes. Following a Gibson 3-pointer that gave the hosts a 22-19 lead, Mercer went on a 17-0 run capped by a Bafutto jumper with 3:22 to play for a 36-22 lead. Mercer led 40-25 at halftime.
The Catamounts opened the second half on a 10-3 run, pulling within eight points on a Dotson layup with 16:29 remaining. Mercer pushed its lead back to double digits on its next possession and led by as many as 11 points until a pair of free throws by Josh Cottrell brought the Catamounts within seven, 50-43, with 11:29 to play. After Luke Hamilton pushed the Bear lead to 61-51 at the 7:35 mark, WCU answered with a 7-0 run to pull within three, 61-58 following a Thomas bucket with 5:37 left. The teams each made one of two free throws on their next possession and traded field goals with the Bears leading by three with 3:50 remaining. Mercer scored on each of its next two possessions as the Catamounts were unable to get closer than five points down the stretch.
Mercer finished 29-for-57 (50.9 percent) from the field, 3-for-18 (16.7 percent) from behind the 3-point line and 13-for-17 at the free throw line. Western Carolina made 22 of 49 field goal attempts (44.9 percent) and went 7-for-30 (23.3 percent) behind the 3-point line and 14-for-23 (60.9 percent) at the charity stripe. Both teams finished with 31 rebounds.
Western Carolina hosts The Citadel on Saturday at 2 p.m.