ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP/WRCB) -- The final game of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's season played out like many before it.
Eric Ferguson scored 26 points and hit late free throws as Georgia Southern rallied from a double-digit first-half deficit to oust the Mocs 76-70 Friday night in first-round action in the Southern Conference tournament.
The loss brings to a close one of the worst season in Chattanooga's rich history. The Mocs (11-21) finished winless on the road (0-14) and lost 20 games in a season for the first time in the program's Division I era, putting eighth-year coach John Shulman on the hot seat.
"I don't know what's next," Shulman said when asked about the program's future. "At the appropriate time we'll see if they want to keep my nametag on the door. Before I go and talk about recruiting and all that we've got to make some decisions."
The Mocs led 42-34 at halftime, but Georgia Southern turned up its defensive pressure to hold UTC to just six field goals in the second half.
Ben Drayton III hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 46-all, but the Mocs responded with a 14-7 run to take a 60-53 lead with 9:09 to play.
The Eagles battled right back, finally taking their first lead of the night on a Dayton layup at the 5:37 mark for a 63-62 advantage. Jahmal Burroughs put UTC back up one with a layup, but Jessie Pernell's 3-pointer gave GSU a 66-64 lead it would never relinquish.
"This game kind of told the story of our whole season," Shulman said. "It's a game of little plays. We didn't make enough of them."
After a Drayton jumper made it 68-65, the Georgia Southern ran the shot clock down into the final five seconds before finding Ferguson open underneath for a dunk. The Eagles' big man went on to seal the game by going four-for-four from the foul line in the final 41 seconds.
"Throughout the whole season we've been having tough games late in the second half, and we've been coming up short," said Burroughs, who led the Mocs with a 15-point, 13-rebound double-double. "This was just another one of those games where we fell short at the end."
JahDontay Hampton added 13 for Chattanooga and Rico White chipped in 12.
Jelani Hewitt had 15 points and nine rebounds and Tre' Bussey finished with 10 for the Eagles (15-14), who advance to play Elon in Saturday's quarterfinals.
The Mocs, meanwhile, advance into on off-season of uncertainty where at the very least, they lose four senior starters.
"You don't have to speak about it. It's been a tough year," said senior point guard Keegan Bell, who played his last game in the Blue and Gold. "We put everything into it. This was our program. This was our team. We gave it all and kept believing all year, so it's just really bittersweet. It's frustrating."
(3N) Western Carolina 68, (6S) The Citadel 56
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- Harouna Mutombo scored 21 points and Trey Sumler had 18 points and six assists as Western Carolina defeated The Citadel 68-56 Friday in the first round of the Southern Conference tournament.
The Catamounts (15-17), who will play Wofford in Saturday's quarterfinals, never trailed after Mutombo's 3-pointer gave them a 3-2 lead. Seven of their eight first-half baskets came from long range as the third seed in the league's North Division took a 24-17 lead into intermission.
The Bulldogs (6-24), seeded sixth in the South Division, twice got within five in the second half. A three-point play by Mike Groselle, who finished with 21 points, made it 37-32 with 13:20 left, but Brandon Boggs, Keaton Cole and Sumler hit 3-pointers on Western Carolina's next three possessions to boost its lead to 46-34.
Cole finished with 14 points.
Each team shot 65.2 percent (15 of 23) in the second half.
(5S) Furman 75, (4N) Samford 66
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- Charlie Reddick and Bobby Austin scored 15 points apiece and Furman defeated Samford 75-66 Friday night in the first round of the Southern Conference tournament.
The Paladins (15-15), who lost to Samford 55-49 on February 18, also got 12 points and seven rebounds from Brandon Sebirumbi. But it was a huge 3-point differential that gave Furman the victory and Samford (11-19) its fourth loss in the last five games.
The Paladins were 8 for 27 from 3-point range, with Reddick hitting three treys and Austin and David Brown two each. Samford, meanwhile, went just 2 for 19 (10.5 percent) from the arc.
Drew Windler, who led the Bulldogs with 21 points, was 0 for 3 on treys. Tyler Hood (13 points) was 1 for 5 from long range and Raijon Kelly (10 points) missed all five of his 3-point attempts. Samford's starting five was 1 for 17 on treys.
(5N) Appalachian State 93, (4S) College of Charleston 81
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- Mike Neal scored 21 points and Omar Carter 19 as Appalachian State defeated College of Charleston 93-81 Friday in the Southern Conference tournament's opening round.
The Mountaineers (13-17), seeded fifth in the league's North Division, shot 62.5 percent (20 of 32) in the second half, when Neal scored 16 of his points and Carter 13.
Appalachian State led 33-30 at the half, but Charleston (19-12), the South Division's fourth seed, tied it at 42 with 14:27 remaining. A 15-5 run, ending with a three-point play by Neal, gave the Mountaineers a 10-point lead, 57-47, and it was 63-51 with 8:37 left after two 3-pointers by Carter.
Tab Hamilton had 17 points, Isaac Butts 11 and Andre Williamson 10 points with 15 rebounds for Appalachian State, which plays UNC Greensboro in the quarterfinals Saturday.
Trent Wiedeman led Charleston with 19 points, and Antwaine Wiggins and Andrew Lawrence scored 14 each.
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