Mocs pour it on VMI to open conference play with a win
The Chattanooga Mocs used another inspired defensive performance, along with long-range shooting, to start Southern Conference action with an 83-65 win over VMI in McKenzie Arena. It’s the third win in a row for the Mocs along with the third straight contest keeping their opponent in the 60s.
Kevin Easley’s 26 points led four Chattanoogans in double figures adding eight rebounds. David Jean-Baptiste chipped in 18 points, six rebounds and five assists in an emergency start at the point, as Jerry Johnson, Jr., and Jonathan Scott joined them with 17 and 11, respectively.
The Keydets were paced by Bubba Parham’s 13 points. The SoCon’s leading scorer was held nearly nine points below his season scoring average.
"It was a team effort on [Parham],” Jean-Baptiste shared after shadowing the talented scorer. “Within in their offense, he's coming off a lot of ball screens and screening action. I counted on my teammates, and they were there for me to help stop the ball. It was definitely a team effort on him.
“It was just the coach's confidence in me to lock down the team's best player in there, and for that it gave me more confidence to defend him."
Jean-Baptiste made his first start of the season with the freshman pair of Maurice Commander and Donovann Toatley unavailable. He nearly set new career highs across the stat sheet in a winning effort.
Chattanooga jumped out to a 14-point lead early in the second half with four consecutive 3pt by Scott, Easley, Jean-Baptiste and Johnson. The latter’s made it a 62-48 game with 16:15 to play. Enter the defense.
The Mocs made just one of their next 10 attempts, one-for-seven from beyond the arc, Who else but Jean-Baptiste ended the cold spurt? His three with 9:42 on the clock put the advantage at 15, 67-52, as the defense locked in and allowed just one made basket over seven minutes of clock time.
It just built from there. The largest lead of 20 came on a strong “and-1” from Easley with 4:00 remaining for a 78-58 margin before finishing 18 points clear when the final horn buzzed.
"It should give us a lot of confidence in a lot of different ways,” Coach Lamont Paris noted. “From a shooting standpoint and from an overall offensive productivity standpoint. It has to work wonders for your individual confidence as well, and we did things short-handed today.
“We did some good things defensively in the second half against a good individual player in Parham, so hopefully it does wonders with our confidence on both sides of the ball."
The Mocs hit the road for three straight beginning Wednesday at Georgia State. That’s followed by trips to Ole Miss (Dec. 16) and UT Martin (Dec. 18) before completing the pre-holiday slate with a lunch date with Bryan. The businessperson special is a Noon start on Friday, Dec. 21. Tickets are available on GoMocs.com or by calling (423) 266-MOCS (6627).