CHATTANOOGA (GoMocs.com)---Makinde London and Nat Dixon scored 21 points apiece in a thrilling 78-71 win over Samford in McKenzie Arena. London added 19 rebounds, the most in a Southern Conference regular season game in school history.
Rebounding was a pivotal part of the game. The Mocs out-boarded Samford by 26, 55-29, with a career-high nine from Joshua Phillips. Makale Foreman and Rodney Chatman also scored in double figures with 13 and 12, respectively, while the latter added seven rebounds and five assists.
Demetrius Denzel-Dyson had a game-high 27 to lead Samford. Eric Adams added 11 points and a team-best seven rebounds, while Alex Thompson chipped in 10 points.
The Mocs led for nearly 90 percent of the contest. Their 15 point lead at the break, 37-22, was the largest of the season, and it rose to a game-high 19, 43-24, on London’s jumper with 16:57 to play.
The Bulldogs answered that tally with a 10-0 run to cut it to nine, 43-34, on Justin Coleman’s three at 14:22. London stopped the spurt 27 seconds later with a triple of his own. Samford scored the next seven points to get within five, 46-41, on Triston Chambers layup at 13:23.
Chattanooga did not break. It turned it around 16-3 run of its own. Dixon’s jumper off a drive into the paint with 8:54 on the clock made it 64-46 and a comfortable cushion. That cushion did not last.
It was still a 16-point affair on Dixon’s deep triple with 5:35 to go, 69-53. The shot reminded the Mocs faithful of Ty Patterson’s epic launch at the end of the shot clock in the Southern Conference Championship win over College of Charleston in 2009. The Bulldogs were not shaken.
Samford’s 18-2 run over the next three minutes cut the margin to a mere two, 71-69, when Denzel-Dyson drilled a three in front of his bench just inside the three-minute mark. The Mocs held it together through it all.
“We’ve been weathered,” London shared. “I think we've been in a lot of these tough situations [over the last four games]. We all had this sense of feeling that it's time. We kept attacking every day and every game the same way we have been.
“With focus, hustle, all the little things we have to put together to get a win. Everyone was doing their job tonight and those are the things we preach."
After defensive stops on both ends, Chatman made the play of the night. The shot clock ticking ever so close to a violation, he drove to the center of the paint and lofted a floater over the tight defense. It bounded it a bit then fell true for a four-point lead with 1:35 remaining.
A missed three for Coleman led to a free throw from Chatman. Thompson’s layup was off the mark and Chatman followed with an aggressive drive to the basket ending with a layup and the 76-69 advantage with 25 ticks left. The two teams traded scoring trips for the 78-71 final.
The battle of the glass was an important factor because the Mocs turned the ball over 22 times. Just two of those came in the final flurry from 5:35 left, but both came with Denzel-Dyson scores to cut it to two. Despite the momentum shift, the young Mocs found a way to grab the victory.
"It feels great to get a win,” Coach Lamont Paris added. “I can't lie. It feels good, especially for the guys. They needed that. They needed to get a win. We've played really hard and very well over a nice little stretch of four or five games.
“Not that deserving means anything, but they deserves to be on the right side of this one. As excited as I was for them, we still have to know some of things we did were potentially catastrophic to winning a game. Luckily we built enough cushion to weather the storm.
“It feels good for the guys.”
ON THE RECORD
Chattanooga: 7-14, 1-7 in the SoCon – Samford: 7-14/3-5
In Chattanooga: 40-12
SoCon Regular Season: 14-6
Last 10: 7-3
This Year: 1-1 | Dec. 30
3 NOTES TO KNOW
View complete notes package from tonight at the notes link above. Three to know…
Access thoughts on tonight’s game at the quotes link above.
“I just let it go and tried to shoot it like normal. I heard everyone on the bench say 'shoot it' so I just threw it up. I'm glad it went in." – Nat Dixon on his deep three at the end of the shot clock.
Check out the full box score at the link above. Here are three notable numbers…
Tonight’s game was the first of three in a row at home. The Mocs face VMI Saturday at 5 p.m., in the second half of a doubleheader with the ladies taking on Mercer at 2 p.m. The games broadcast on ESPN3 and feature The Zooperstars at halftime of both contests.