By STEVE REED, Associated Press
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Clint Mann's dunk with 1:04 left in double-overtime put Davidson ahead to stay and the Wildcats defeated Western Carolina 93-91 to win the Southern Conference championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament Monday night.
Western Carolina's Keaton Cole, who helped spark a furious rally at the end of regulation, missed a 3-pointer from 20 feet with three seconds left that would have given the Catamounts a huge upset and their first tournament berth since 1996.
JP Kuhlman and De'Mon Brooks, the tournament's most outstanding player, each scored 19 points to lead the top-seeded Wildcats (26-7).
Western Carolina was led by Cole's 21 points. Tawaski King and Harouna Mutombo each had 20 points for the Catamounts (17-18).
Davidson led by 13 points with 2:47 left in regulation but the Catamounts mounted a furious comeback and tied the game after Cole was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 11 seconds left in the game and made all three free throws.
Davidson's Nik Cochran's driving layup was slapped away at the end of regulation and the game went to overtime.
In the first overtime Davidson had another chance to put Western Carolina away, but Brooks' turnaround jump shot in the lane hit the rim three times before bouncing away, sending the game into double overtime.
It is Davidson's first NCAA berth since 2008 when a boyish-looking shooter named Stephen Curry led the Wildcats on a magical run to the regional championships where they lost to eventual national champion Kansas.
Now the Wildcats are back.
They may not have an NBA lottery pick this year, but they do have is a balanced scoring attack that features five starters who average in double figures.
Along with Kuhlman and Brooks, Cochran, Mann and Jake Cohen also scored in double digits as the Wildcats put the final touches on a dominating season in the Southern Conference, where they finished 14-2 and earned the tournament's No. 1 seed.
Western Carolina went 8-10 in the conference during the season and needed three victories in three days just to reach the finals.
But behind a partisan crowd, the Catamounts kept pressing on looking to become the first Southern Conference team to win four games in four days. Mutombo scored 10 of his team's first 15 points as Western Carolina bolted to a 30-18 lead.
However, Kuhlman got hot and the Wildcats came storming back, closing the first half on a 16-3 run to take a 36-35 lead into the locker room.
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