CHATTANOOGA (UTC) -- Keegan Bell scored 17 of his game-high 20 points in the second half to key Chattanooga's comeback win over visiting Savannah State (1-5) in the opening game of the Hoosier Classic's Chattanooga Bracket.
Bell's effort included a five-of-10 performance from three-point range.
His biggest shots came down the stretch. He hit two crucial threes inside the final four minutes of the game as he scored 11 points in the final 4:17.
"When things don't go right and you don't have shots go in and you don't get rebounds you just have to find a way to win," Bell said. "When you care about people and you are together as a team you can find ways to win. We did some good things. We definitely have some things to work on, but I am proud of us for fighting back."
SSU led through most of the game until Chris Early nailed a trey at 5:30 to give the Mocs their first lead, 52-51. The Tigers' Rashad Hassan answered from 15 feet just 20 seconds later to put SSU back up by one, 53-52.
The teams traded baskets until Daric Rudolph knocked down his fifth three-pointer for SSU with 47 seconds to go to knot the score at 60-all. Bell got to the line and put UTC up for good, 62-60, with just 26 second remaining.
Dontay Hampton rebounded an errant Joshua Montgomery three-point attempt with 10 seconds to go and hit two at the charity stripe for a four-point lead, 64-60, but the Tigers would not go quietly into that good night.
Preston Blackmon dropped in a three-pointer with five ticks left and Bell stepped to the line with a 64-63 lead with 3.9 to go. He made one of two and a desperation three-point attempt by Montgomery was just off the mark for the 65-63 final.
"It's nice to gut out a win that maybe you shouldn't have won and figure out the way to win," said Mocs' coach John Shulman. "To figure all that stuff out...to get stops at the end of the game and have to make free throws and that stuff helps in the long run.
"If you would have told me we'd win this game with Omar scoring six points and Ricky just two points, I'd have called you a liar. So there's a lot of positives to this. We just need to get everyone on the right page."
Rudolph had a team-high 15 for the Tigers, while Montgomery added 12. Hassan had 11 points and four rebounds.
Savannah State jumped out quickly on Chattanooga to open the game. SSU built a 15-point lead, 22-7, and had the Mocs reeling.
But Early and Drazen Zlovaric kept the Mocs in the game by doing most of their damage in the opening frame. Early's stat line included 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Zlovaric chipped in 12 points and eight boards.
"I kind of felt like I was letting my teammates down and not doing all I could," said Early, who came off the bench for a second straight game because of poor play to start the seaosn. "I have been injured the last three games and I have been trying to battle with that. I needed to wake up and do the best I could to give them some support."
The Hoosier Classic Chattanooga Bracket continues Saturday with Savannah State meeting Gardner-Webb at 5 p.m. The Mocs and Bulldogs square off Sunday at 3 p.m.
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