CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Forward Marc Gosselin scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead Western Carolina to an 81-68 win over VMI Monday night at Ramsey Center.
VMI closed out the regular season 6-23, 3-15 in SoCon play, and will open SoCon Tournament action as the No. 10 seed and will face No. 7 Samford Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Asheville, N.C. It will be the second straight year that the Keydets have faced the Bulldogs in the opening round of the tournament.
VMI guard QJ Peterson led VMI in scoring with 20 points and eight rebounds while guard Julian Eleby cooled down from a blistering start and finished with 19 points. Forward Trey Chapman posted his second career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
It was Peterson’s 11th 20+ point game of the year.
Western Carolina outscored VMI in paint points, 44-16, and held a 39-30 advantage on the boards while shooting 53.6% from the floor.
VMI shot 46.4% from the field in the opening half including seven 3-point goals, but managed just 3 of 14 shooting beyond the arc in the second half. The Keydets also connected on 10 of 19 from the free throw line.
The Catamounts held the upper hand in second chance points, 16-4.
The game was a seesaw first half with four ties and four lead changes that ultimately resulted in a 35-35 tie at the break.
Eleby scored VMI’s first 14 points of the game rifling four quick treys and canning a lay-in as he hit his first five shots from the floor. But the senior quickly cooled down and went one of seven from the field the remainder of the game.
The Keydets held a nine-point lead at the 4:04 mark of the first half when Chapman converted a 3-point play to push the Keydets ahead, 35-26.
The Catamounts rallied scoring the last nine points of the half and the first four points of the second half to assume a lead they would not relinquish.
VMI trailed 53-51 following a jumper by guard Keith Smith with 12:29 left but the Catamounts stretched out an 11-3 run to take their first double lead after Gosselin drained a wing 3-pointer to cap the outburst with 8:48 remaining. An Eleby layup pulled the Keydets within six points, 72-66, but VMI went 0 for 6 from the floor over the final three minutes of regulation.
Tickets for Friday’s SoCon Tournament first round game can be purchased at vmikeydets.com or by calling 540-464-7266.
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
(1) UNCG vs. Game 1 winner, 12:00 p.m.
(4) Chattanooga vs. (5) Wofford, 2:30 p.m.
(2) Furman vs. Game 2 winner, 6:00 p.m.
(3) ETSU vs. (6) Mercer, 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 5
Semifinal 1 – 5:00 p.m.
Semifinal 2 – 7:30 p.m.
Monday, March 6
Championship Game – 7:00 p.m.