CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WRCB/AP) - It wasn't pretty, but it was a win. And it was a big win.
Gee McGhee had a team-high 14 points and Chattanooga overcame a sluggish first half to beat visiting Samford 62-59 in overtime at McKenzie Arena.
The Mocs (10-15, 5-7 in Southern Conference) not only completed a regular season sweep of the Bulldogs, but they placed themselves in the thick of the race for the fourth and final first-round bye in the upcoming SoCon Tournament.
"You're going to have nights like this, but you have to find a way," said head coach John Shulman. "Great teams, and even good teams, find a way to win when you don't have your a game. We just beat a very good basketball team and had to do it in a very unique way.
"We found a way and we gutted it out."
UTC, Appalachian State, Samford, Western Carolina and UNC Greensboro are all now separated by less than two games in the standings, and one will likely secure the final bye alongside Davidson, College of Charleston and Elon.
Lance Stokes came alive for a career-high 13 points and Drazen Zlovaric matched him for his fourth straight game in double figures.
"It was definitely a huge momentum game for us," said Stokes, who missed two months earlier this season with a broken foot. "I think getting this win and grinding this one out was really huge for us to catch momentum going into these next few games."
Samford twice pushed its lead to as many as 11 points in the first half, and led 32-25 at the break, but Chattanooga opened the second half on a 12-5 run to pull even and eventually open a five-point lead with 4:33 to play.
After Stokes' layup with 53 seconds left put the Mocs ahead 55-53, Tim Williams converted two free throws with 42 seconds left to tie the game at 55. Raijon Kelly missed a 3-pointer for Samford sending the game into overtime.
Zlovaric hit the Mocs' only bucket of the overtime period, and McGhee and Ronrico White converted big free throws to give UTC a three-point lead with less than a minute to play. Kelly got a second chance to be the hero, but his deep, game-tying 3-pointer missed the mark with 0.1 seconds left.
"Coming in the first half, you can say we were a little bit fatigued and our legs weren't there, but that's not an excuse," Zlovaric said. "We came back to the locker room and asked ourselves 'did we play harder than Samford?', and we didn't in the first half.
"We had to come out in the second half and play harder than them. I feel like it was an ugly game, but it's a win."
Kelly led the Bulldogs with 19 points, while Tim Williams and Clide Geffard, Jr. added 13 and 12, respectively.
Chattanooga used defense and rebounding to atone for a 1-for-14 performance behind the 3-point arc. The Mocs out-rebounded the Bulldogs 43-22 on the night, and gave up just 42 points over the game's final 40 minutes.
"We call this in coaching 'a root canal' because it sure wasn't fun, but it definitely counts the same," Shulman said. "I'm just proud of our kids. They keep battling their guts out."
The weary Mocs will take Tuesday off following a stretch of three games in five days, but they're break will be brief. UTC will play host to Furman at 7 p.m. ET Thursday to cap a four-game, eight-day homestand.
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