Mocs lose sixth straight, still winless on the road
CULLOWHEE, NC (UTC/WRCB) -- It wasn't a buzzer-beater, but it was close.
After losing three straight games on the final possession, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga saw its second-half rally come up short in an 82-76 loss at Western Carolina on Thursday night.
It was the sixth straight loss for the Mocs (9-15, 3-8 in SoCon), who remain winless on the road this season (0-11).
The Catamounts used a barrage of 3-pointers to build an 18-point lead early in the second half. After burying 12 shots from behind the arc in the first half, WCU added three more in the second to finish the game 15-of-41 from 3-point range. The 41 attempts from behind the arc were a school record.
"I felt like we were the hungrier team, but when you get down in that deficit in the first half it is hard to bounce back. Especially when you are on the road and down double-digits," said senior point guard Keegan Bell. "I thought we did a great job of fighting back. Every time I thought we were fighting back I looked up at the score and we were still trailing by double-digits.
"But we made a run at the end and still had a chance to win it."
Down 16 with 5:38 to play, UTC used a 13-1 run to pull within four at the 2:17 mark. Keegan Bell then answered a Catamounts' basket with a coast-to-coast layup to keep the Mocs within 78-74 in the final minute, but WCU made its final four free throws to seal the win.
"A missed box out here and a missed box out there. Little plays," Mocs' coach John Shulman said. "It's a shame because the last 15-16 minutes of the game our kids battled their guts out. Down 18 with 15 to play and came back and answered and answered and answered."
"It is amazing the guys stepping up. We never gave up. We battled and battled and battled. We are just undermanned at this moment. We are going to get there. We are going to get all of our troops back and when we do, let's see how resilient we are."
Omar Wattad had 18 points to lead Chattanooga, including an 8-for-8 effort at the free throw line. Keegan Bell and Dontay Hampton had 13 apiece, while freshman Lance Stokes added 11 points and five rebounds while playing out of position on the Mocs' front line.
Stokes was forced to spend time in the post because of injuries to Z Mason (knee) and Jahmal Burroughs (hamstring). Both made the trip, but did not dress.
"We came out in the second half and Lance Stokes should be player of the game," Bell said. "He was getting after it and giving us energy and he just played his tail-end off.
Western Carolina was paced by Brandon Boggs and Keaton Cole who combined to score 39 points. Boggs scored 21 to lead all scorers, while Cole chipped in 18. Tawaski King was a difference maker inside with 14 rebounds, seven on the offensive end.
Trey Sumler and Harouna Mutombo each had 14 for the Catamounts (10-14, 4-8).
The Mocs, who now stand alone in last place in the SoCon North, will travel to Davidson on Saturday for a rematch with the Wildcats. Davidson, who leads the South Division at 10-1 in league play, won in Chattanooga last week on a free throw with 1.2 seconds to play.
"You can look at it one way or you can look at it the other way. I refuse to look at it the other way," Shulman said. "Our guys busted their tail-end and now we have to go three hours to Charlotte and get ready to play Davidson on Saturday. I see emotion in that locker room, but I don't see a lot of quit in that locker room."
"We are undermanned, but not under-heart. We are busting it. As long as you play hard, you have a chance to get out of it."