Chattanooga holds on to begin home stand with big conference win
The Chattanooga Mocs saw a 14-point lead dwindle to one point, but stayed the course in an 80-75 win over Samford Saturday afternoon in McKenzie Arena. Ramon Vila and Kevin Easley combined for 38 points and 17 rebounds in the victory.
Vila registered his first collegiate double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Easley scored 20, his fifth time this season with 20 or more. Donovann Toatley added 10 off the bench. Josh Sharkey paced the Bulldogs with a game-high 22 points.
The Mocs led by as many as 14 in the second half, but it was not a bizarre turn to see a Southern Conference game get tight late. Robert Allen, who also had a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards, cut the home team’s margin to one with a jumper in the paint. It came off a flurry of offensive rebounds making it a 72-71 game with just over two minutes remaining.
"Basketball happened.” Coach Lamont Paris shared post-game. “We did some things to ourselves during that stretch like turning the ball over everywhere. Uncharacteristically, we have to manage that better. We also missed two front ends of one-and-ones and missed a couple other free throws during that stretch. Those are unbelievable learning experiences for these guys. You can't script it any better (in that regard).”
Much like the win nine days ago at Western Carolina, the Gig City lads made the winning plays down the stretch. It started on the ensuing possession with a huge three from David Jean-Baptiste. Sharkey made two free throws to get back to a two-point affair, 75-73, at 1:33.
The defenses traded stops. As the clock ticked inside a minute, Easley feigned a drive and his step-back three was true to extend the margin back to five. There was no fade in the Bulldogs, however, as Sharkey immediately went coast-to-coast for the layup and a 78-75 Mocs advantage.
Samford got a huge stop, but Chattanooga was up to the challenge. It returned the favor in the final 10 seconds with strong defensive play. Jerry Johnson, Jr., iced the game with two free throws for the 80-75 final tally.
"After the ETSU game, Coach told us we have three really big opportunities coming up. We took that to heart and have been working hard over the past week to get ready for today and this upcoming week."
Today was the start of a 3-game home stand. The Mocs welcome Mercer (Jan. 17) and The Citadel (Jan. 19) next weekend as SoCon play continues. Both games are also doubleheaders with the women’s program meeting Wofford and Furman. Tickets are available on GoMocs.com or by calling (423) 266-MOCS (6627).