"Georgia Southern made a lot of plays down the stretch," Head Coach Will Wade said. "(Tre) Bussey did a really nice job finishing plays late for them."
"I'm proud of my team…we played really hard tonight," Wade continued. "We just couldn't hit a shot when we needed it."
Z. Mason (Nashville, Tenn.) led all scorers with 21 points while collecting nine rebounds. Casey Jones (New Orleans, La.) added 12 points and six boards, while Gee McGhee (Baton Rouge, La.) grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Tre Bussey led Georgia Southern with 17 points. Jelani Hewitt chipped in 12, as Brian Holmes netted 10, all from the free throw line making 10 of 13 attempts.
The Mocs led for a majority of the game. The largest lead was nine, 38-29, with 14:20 remaining on a three-point play by Ronrico White (Knoxville, Tenn.). The Eagles scored nine unanswered points holding Chattanooga without a field goal for nearly four minutes. Marvin Baynham capped the run with a basket off an offensive board with 10:30 left.
Mason ended the drought trading three-point baskets with the Eagles. It was a two-for-one sale though. Mason sandwiched a Curtis Diamond three over a 54-second period to get the lead back to three, 44-41 with 8:35 to go.
The Eagles kept the pressure on while the Mocs continued to struggle from the floor. Baynham gave GSU its first lead, 47-46, with 4:46 to go. It marked back-to-back baskets for the GSU big man.
Those scores started a 12-1 run. Bussey's jumper with 55 seconds to play staked the Eagles to an eight-point advantage, 55-47. GSU hit its free throws down the stretch with a seven-of-eight performance by Brian Holmes to cement the victory.
Chattanooga's shooting let them down. It hit just 20 percent (4-20) from three-point range.
"We just couldn't hit a shot," Wade added. "We missed a lot of wide open looks. We had the one possession where we had two or three offensive rebounds and just missed some wide open three's. I thought the possession where we had a slim lead, got the defensive stop but gave up two offensive rebounds to their guys really hurt us as well."
Barring a postseason invitation, the Mocs season ends at 18-14. It's the most wins since 2008-09. The squad loses just one senior, but what a loss that is in Z. Mason.
The SoCon Defensive Player of the Year and first team all-league pick averaged 18.3 points per game while leading the conference in rebounding (9.5) and blocks (2.9). His 549 points this season rank ninth in the DI era, while his 285 rebounds tied for third. He fell two blocks short of Neil Ashby's season mark.
His career numbers are just as impressive over his three seasons. He is the only Moc in school history to record 1,000 points (1,165), 500 rebounds (668) and 100 blocks (124).
"Z. had a great year for us," Wade noted. "A really good year and we appreciate all he brought on and off the court. It's a tough way to end it.
"Our guys played their tail-ends off tonight, they were prepared…we just came up short tonight."