The Chattanooga Mocs lost 77-61 to visiting Georgia Southern despite 21 points from senior Z. Mason. The Eagles got 49 combined points from Tre Bussey and Jelani Hewitt in the win.
“Obviously this was not our best night,” said Head Coach Will Wade. “Give Georgia Southern a ton of credit. They out-toughed us and out-worked us the last 25 minutes of the game. They just wanted it more.
“Our margins are small and we just didn’t have it, for whatever reason, for the last 25 minutes of this game.”
Bussey scored 25, while Hewitt buried 24 tonight. Angel Matias added 14 points and five rebounds, as Marvin Baynham grabbed a game-high 10 boards. GSU held a 37-30 advantage on the boards.
The loss dampened a special night for Mason. The Nashville native scored added seven rebounds and two blocks to his 21 points in front of more than 100 students from his alma mater, Christ Presbyterian Academy.
“I feel honored,” Mason said in his post-game press conference. “It’s a group of kids and teachers that came from Nashville to support me. It’s been a while since I seen a lot of them and there was familiar faces in there. It’s just something I am proud and honored for them to come support me.
“It’s a great feeling I am kind of down on my game, but after seeing that it changed my mentality and I am so appreciative of them.”
The Mocs led by as many as 12 in the first half and were up 32-23 with 3:56 to go in the first half after a Ronrico White three-pointer. It was all Eagles from there.
Hewitt sparked a 13-2 run to end the first 20 minutes with three three-pointers for a 36-34 halftime advantage. Chattanooga went without a field goal from 3:56 of the first half to 15:38 of the second. The 8:18 spurt was ended by another White trey cutting GSU’s advantage to just seven, 46-39.
The Eagles key play may have come just under two minutes later. Curtis Diamond missed from three-point range but Sam Mike grabbed the offensive rebound. Just 19 seconds later, Diamond sized up another trey which fell to push the lead to 10.
Mason answered with a dunk on the Mocs next possession to make it an eight-point game, 51-43, at 13:03. That’s as close as it would get as the Eagles shot 55.2 percent (16-29) in the second half to pull away for the win.
The Mocs wasted a strong start. A 16-2 run was capped by a Mason three for a 16-5 advantage just four-plus minutes into the contest. The lead eventually swelled to 12, 29-17, on a Casey Jones tip-in at the 5:23 mark.
The early run came behind solid defense. Seven GSU turnovers led to 11 points for the home team in the first eight minutes of the game. The Eagles had just four miscues after White’s three-pointer at 3:56 and shot a sizzling 60 percent (21-35) from the field, 61.5 percent (8-13) from beyond the arc, for the remaining 24 minutes.