By Carey Phillips
Top-seeded East Tennessee rolled past fifth-seeded Western Carolina 97-75 Sunday in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Daivien Williamson scored 20 points to lead five Buccaneers in double figures at the Harrahs Cherokee Center – Asheville. Tray Boyd added 18, followed by Isaiah Tisdale and Bo Hodges with 13 apiece and Lucas N’Guessan with 12.
Mason Faulkner paced the Catamounts (19-12) with 29 points, while making 15 of 17 free throws. He was named second-team all-tournament after earlier being chosen first-team all-conference by the coaches and second-team by the media.
Onno Steger finished with 15 points, and Carlos Dotson had 11.
Dotson also made second-team all-tournament. He was selected by the coaches and media as first-team all-tournament and was named conference player of the month for February.
ETSU led from the opening basket – a three-pointer by Boyd.
Tisdale’s trey opened a 10-3 lead with 17:20 on the clock.
WCU cut the gap to 11-8 on Dotson’s follow shot at the 16:25 mark.
Hodges scored six in a 9-2 run upping the margin to 20-10 with 13:52 left in the half.
The Bucs used an 11-2 spurt, including four by Boyd, to build a 36-17 advantage after Tisdale’s three-point play with 5:58 on the clock.
The margin reached 44-19 when Williamson converted a three-point play at the 4:07 mark.
ETSU led 48-30 at halftime.
Western came within 48-33 when Matt Halvorsen opened the second half scoring with a three-pointer.
Any thoughts of a comeback quickly faded as Williamson, Tisdale and Boyd all hit treys for a 57-33 lead with 16:30 remaining.
The margin didn’t dip below 19 the rest of the way.
The Bucs shot 58.6 percent from the field, including 63.3 percent in the second half. WCU made 43.4 percent of its attempts.
Boyd, Hodges and N’Guessan all had six rebounds helping ETSU to a 35-28 edge on the boards.
Both teams committed 12 turnovers.
Completing the WCU scoring were Halvorsen with nine, Tyler Harris with eight and Travion McCray with three.
Cats down Mercer
Western topped Mercer 70-56 in Saturday’s quarterfinals.
Faulkner led the way with 22. Dotson followed with 19, and Steger had 13.
Kamar Robertson and Djordje Dimittrijevic led the Bears with 17 and 11 points, respectively.
WCU trailed by a point at halftime but was almost unstoppable in the second half while shooting 70 percent from the floor.
Halvorsen’s three-pointer 13 seconds into the second half gave the Cats the lead for good, 31-29.
Faulkner scored five and Dotson four in a 9-3 run for a 44-34 advantage with 15:14 on the clock.
Steger’s five points keyed an 11-2 run for a 61-45 margin at the 4:21 mark.
The largest lead was 69-51 as Dotson completed a three-point play with 1:17 to go.
Steger’s three-pointer helped the Cats take a 7-0 lead in the first two and a half minutes.
Robertson hit a pair of three-pointers in a 12-2 spurt, capped by Jeff Gary’s trey, as Mercer took a 27-24 lead with 3:04 on the clock.
The Bears were up 29-28 at halftime.
WCU finished the game shooting 52.4 percent from the field, while holding Mercer to 40 percent.
Ethan Stair’s nine rebounds sparked the Bears to a 34-26 advantage on the glass. Faulkner, Dotson and Steger all had five for Western.
Mercer committed 16 turnovers, and the Cats had 13.
Rounding out the WCU scoring were Harris with six, Halvorsen and McCray with three apiece, and Xavier Cork and Adam Sledd both with two.