CULLOWHEE, N.C. - Sophomore Marc Gosselin and freshman Yalim Olcay picked up career-highs in the Western Carolina men's basketball regular season finale Monday night inside the Ramsey Center. The Catamounts knocked off VMI 81-68 to secure the No. 8 seed and a date with The Citadel at the upcoming 2017 Southern Conference Championships presented by General Shale.
Gosselin picked up his third-straight double-double with a career-high 20 points and 12 rebounds. The sophomore knocked down his first seven shots from the field including four 3-pointers and was also a perfect 2-2 at the free throw line. He finished 7-of-8 from the field with 12 rebounds all of which came on the defensive end. He also led the team with a career-high four steals.
Olcay came off the bench to score a career-best 14 points while knocking down five of his eight shots from the field and going 4-of-5 at the free throw line. He also ripped down seven rebounds in the contest.
WCU dominated the paint, outscoring the Bulldogs 44-16 down low.
Junior Haboubacar Mutombo added 16 points, six rebounds and five assists as he hit seven of his 12 shot attempts. Classmate Devin Peterson added 15 points, four assists and three rebounds as well including going 5-of-8 at the charity stripe. Junior Ashley Williams came off the bench to score eight points to help spark the Catamounts.
WCU shot 53.6 percent from the field including 57.7 percent in the second half. The Catamounts held VMI to 42.1 percent shooting overall and 37.9 percent in the last 20 minutes.
VMI placed three scorers in double-figures paced by QJ Peterson who had 20 and Julian Eleby who had 19.
WCU improves to 9-22 on the season and 4-14 in Southern Conference play while the Keydets fall to 6-23 overall and 3-15 in league action.
VMI took an early 9-4 lead and held it until a 3-pointer by Gosselin gave WCU its first advantage at 11-9. Eleby scored VMI's first 14 points of the game as he came out on fire. He would score his 14th point on a 3-pointer with 13:32 left in the first half but would go scoreless for the rest of the period and would not score again until the 6:10 mark of the second half.
Down 17-11, WCU went on a 12-2 run to take a 23-19 advantage with 7:41 left. WCU saw five different Catamounts score in the run as WCU shared the ball. VMI would respond minutes later with a 13-0 run of its own to take a 35-26 lead with just over four minutes left in the period. VMI would not score the rest of the half as the Catamounts slowly closed the gap eventually hitting a tip-in as time expired tying the game at 35.
The second half opened with back-to-back turnovers before Gosselin knocked down his third 3-pointer of the game to give WCU a three point advantage. The lead would eventually grow to seven on an old-fashion 3-point play by Mutombo with 16:17 left. VMI whittled the lead down to just one with just under 13 minutes to play but an old-fashion 3-point play by Williams put the lead back to four. VMI would cut the lead to a single possession two times more but that would be as close as they would come as WCU eventually built up a double-digit lead late in the contest. The Catamounts largest lead would come on their final basket as Olcay put the icing on the cake knocking down a pair of free throws to give WCU a 13-point lead at 81-68.
The Catamounts will now begin preparation for the No. 9 seed Citadel. The Catamounts and Bulldogs will battle it out on Friday, March 3 at 5 pm for a chance to face the No. 1 seed UNCG at noon on Saturday.
2017 Southern Conference Tournament Schedule
Friday, March 3
Game 1 - (8) Western Carolina vs. (9) The Citadel, 5:00 p.m.
Game 2 - (7) Samford vs. (10) VMI, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 4
Game 3 - (1) UNCG vs. Game 1 winner, 12:00 p.m.
Game 4 - (4) Chattanooga vs. (5) Wofford, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5 - (2) Furman vs. Game 2 winner, 6:00 p.m.
Game 6 - (3) ETSU vs. (6) Mercer, 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 5
Game 7 -Semifinal 1 - 5:00 p.m.
Game 8 -Semifinal 2 - 7:30 p.m.
Monday, March 6
Championship Game - 7:00 p.m.