Mocs hang on at Asheville for 68-64 win
The Chattanooga Mocs shook off a pesky pen of UNC Asheville Bulldogs for a 68-64 win Saturday afternoon in Kimmel Arena. Matt Ryan led four in three Mocs in double figures with 15 points, but it was the final six that earned the win.
DeVon Baker’s three with 1:57 to go made it a 60-60 game. David Jean-Baptiste made it a two-point game with free throws on the ensuing Mocs possession. A.J. Caldwell made a big play on defense. Tajjon Jones made a strong move to the hoop, but Caldwell stripped him of the ball.
The teams traded defensive stops. Ryan ended up with the ball top left. He drove then pulled up for the two-pointer with 19.3 to play and a four-point advantage, 64-60. Jones answered with a three to carve it to one and then the home team immediately fouled Ryan.
He calmly sank a pair to get back up by three, 66-63, with 9.9 on the clock. Chattanooga fouled to prevent a three-pointer, but a little early as 7.1 remained on the clock. Trent Stephney missed the first but made the second. The Mocs looked for Ryan again. He went to the line making two more to write the 68-64 win in the ledger.
Ramon Vila and Maurice Commander added 11 points for the Mocs. Lavar Batts, Jr. led all scorers with 17, while Jones and Baker chipped in 13 apiece.
“I think it worked well for us that there were timeouts, and we could come back and collect ourselves and get back to what we were doing," Coach Lamont Paris explained. "Aside from being resilient, I don’t know if it’s smart, but I think their belief is really high in what we’re trying to do, and that’s a big part in what has helped [in close games]. It’s a great group of young men and I really enjoy coaching them.”
Chattanooga built a 14-point lead midway through the second half. Jones made it a 43-38 margin in favor of the Mocs. Stefan Kenic drained two free throws to start an 11-2 spurt. Jean-Baptiste ran off seven straight with a three and consecutive layups. Vila scored on a nice look from Rod Johnson to extend it to 54-40 with 11:10 on the clock.
The offense went dry. A drought of 4:44 ended on a Commander give-and-go three off an in-bounds play. The Bulldogs had gotten within one when Commander steadied the ship. Jones and Baker hit shots to level the score at 57-all, but the Mocs did not falter.
“That’s college basketball,” Ryan noted. “No lead is safe. We look up and see that we’re up 14 with 10:50 on the clock at a media timeout. We said there’s a lot of time left and in a blink of an eye, the game’s tied on a crazy run. For our team to weather that storm, to bounce back, to close out, was big. We made some winning plays.”
The Mocs head home for the holidays returning to the Roundhouse Sunday, Dec. 29, for a double-header with the women’s team. Donate two canned food items at the gate to replenish the Chattanooga Area Food Bank and get buy one, get one free tickets. The guys host Cumberland at 1:30 p.m., before the ladies take on Ohio.