MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Freshman Matt Halvorsen led a hot-shooting Western Carolina men’s basketball team in the first half at No. 14/15 Minnesota Sunday afternoon before a second half surge by the Golden Gophers downed the Catamounts, 92-64. WCU nailed seven 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes against the nationally-ranked Golden Gophers and trailed by just nine points at the half. Halvorsen contributed four of the seven triples in the opening half and added another in the second half before finishing with a team-high 17 points in the loss.
Halvorsen also had three assists and a pair of rebounds. Senior Deriece Parks chipped in 11 points while knocking down a trio of 3-pointers. He also had three assists and three rebounds in the contest.
Junior Mike Amius added eight points, five rebounds and two blocks. Freshman Desmond Johnson came off the bench to score seven points including knocking down his first career 3-pointer. Junior Marc Gosselin and sophomore Onno Steger each added five points and a team-high tying five rebounds.
The Catamounst shot 50.0 percent from 3-point range in the game including knocking down seven triples in the opening 20 minutes and four in the second half. On the other hand, the Catamounts shot just 29.7 percent from inside the 3-point line, scoring just 20 points in the paint.
The Golden Gophers placed five scorers in double-figures led by Jordan Murphy who had 23 points and 11 rebounds. Fifteen of his 23 points came at the free throw line where the Golden Gophers took 23 more attempts than the Catamounts throughout the game.
Minnesota shot 50.0 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range. The Golden Gophers out-scored the Catamounts in the paint 38-20 and took advantage of WCU’s 20 turnovers to score 34 points. WCU converted Minnesota’s 12 turnovers into just 15 points.
WCU scored its first 18 points of the game from 3-point land as Halvorsen knocked down four in the first 6:18 of the game. A jumper from senior Haboubacar Mutombo with 10:43 left in the first marked the first WCU points not to come from a three and it cut the Minnesota lead to 23-20. The Catamounts kept it close and eventually cut the lead to two on a layup from Gosselin with 5:08 remaining in the first half. An 8-1 run by the Golden Gophers opened up a 40-31 lead for Minnesota with 1:55 left in the half. Each team would knock down a pair of free throws down the stretch as the Catamounts trailed 42-33 at the half.
The second half opened with a 3-pointer from Parks which cut the advantage to just six. A 4-point play by Halvorsen on WCU’s next possession cut that advantage to just five before Minnesota went on a 12-1 run to open up a 16-point lead. The Golden Gophers steadily pulled away throughout the second half eventually closing out the contest with a 92-64 advantage.
The Catamounts will now catch a flight east to Amherst, Mass., to take on the UMass Minutemen on Tuesday, Nov. 21 at 7 pm.