Caldwell’s last-second three puts Mocs over Bucs, 67-65

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (UTC Athletics) — Whew. That’s it. A.J. Caldwell made one shot all game, but it was at the right time draining a three with 1.0 on the clock to beat ETSU 67-65 in Southern Conference play Saturday afternoon. It came just over 10 seconds after a Bucs dagger to the collective hearts of Mocs fans set up this dramatic conclusion.

“Malachi was supposed to get a look at the rim but then a couple fumbles happened, and I heard Tyler [Dobratz] our strength coach counting down,” Caldwell explained. “I knew I had to get a shot off and maybe we could get an offensive rebound. Gladly it went in and we were able to win. I originally caught it, and there was nothing there so I took a dribble to the left and got a glimmer of the rim and got the shot up quick so they couldn’t block it and that probably helped me because normally my shot is usually flat.

“It just went in.”

The Mocs led by as many as 16 in the game, but the Bucs clawed back. They took their first lead on Ty Brewer’s 3pt with 11.9 seconds on the clock. Malachi Smith brought the ball up after an ETSU timeout. He got to the top of the key, looked left and pivoted back right to see Caldwell on the wing. He rose up over two Bucs and drained it from 24 feet for the win, the first at ETSU since 2016.

“Exactly how we drew it up,” Coach Lamont Paris grinned like the Cheshire cat. “It was a scramble. We had the ball in Malachi’s hand and set a drag ball screen at the top to spread the floor and get KC [Hankton] and Malachi in a good situation. We wanted to try and attack the rim if we could because they wouldn’t want to foul.

“He attacked and there were two guys on him, A.J. saw his man helped just a little bit and got a catch and shoot. We just wanted to get something with the flow of our offense moving to the basket and any threes that we would look at is because of an over help situation.”

While A.J. had the final points, Smith and David Jean-Baptiste led the way with 18 apiece. Darius Banks added 14. Damari Monsanto led all scorers with 22 points matching Smith for game-high honors on the glass with seven. David Sloan added 14 points and eight assists for ETSU.

Chattanooga led by six, 33-27, at the break after a late three by Jean-Baptiste sent them into the locker room with momentum. The Mocs scored the first eight of the first 10 points out of the break and maintained a comfortable advantage. Smith’s three-point play at 6:44 made it a 16-point affair, 58-42.

Monsanto scored seven in a 10-0 burst closing the gap to 58-52 with three free throws at 5:11. Hankton’s layup with 2:25 left got it back to eight, 62-54. But the Bucs scored 11 of the next 13 points capped by Brewer’s near heroics. Then there was A.J.

The three-game road trip ends Wednesday night at Wofford. The Mocs 7 p.m., start airs on ESPN+ or over the airwaves in Chattanooga via WFLI 97.7 FM and 1070 AM. Links for video, audio and live stats for each contest is located on the men’s basketball schedule page.

RECORDS
Chattanooga 14-5/5-5 | ETSU 11-7/7-3

QUOTABLE
“I thought the guys competed and defended at a real high level for the entirety of the game until at the end when they got hot, and they have a good team. That’s a good team for a reason. I thought our guys really competed and defended in the way that we needed to in order to have a great chance to win the game. It’s hard to understate that level of competition and determination.” – Coach Lamont Paris opening press conference statement

“It’s huge. I think the coaches and my teammates have instilled a lot of confidence in me and I try to do that for everyone else too. We always think that shot is going to go in. They always tell me to shoot the ball and I tell everyone else to shoot the ball, we have tremendous confidence in each other and are a tight-knit group. Just being on the floor is all the confidence I need to be able to catch and shoot. For us to come in here and get a win against a really good team, and the rivalry, it’s a really good win.” – Caldwell on what the win means for the team’s confidence

“It’s just the leadership we have on the team. Guys are always talking to each other and encouraging to move on from the last play and that you can’t hold your head. You just have to take it one game at a time and keep learning from it, and then you just move on from it. This is a good win for us, and you just have to keep building on this.” – Banks on the team’s bond

Check out all we heard at the link above.

3 NOTES TO KNOW
– Last game-winning shot in the final seconds? Casey Jones ’16 on Jan. 10, 2015 in 74-71 overtime win at ETSU.
– 11-0 this season (26-4 over last 2) when holding opponents below 70 points.
– 8-2 on the road this season. It’s the ninth time in program history getting eight or more in a campaign. School record for road wins in a season? 11 in 2015-16. 12-3 in last 15 road matchups.

Check out all the notables at the link above.

3 STATS TO KNOW
– The Mocs came into the game leading the SoCon in defensive rebound percentage (.755), while the Bucs paced it on the offensive end (.364) in league games. The good guys won this battle claiming 79.3 percent (23/29) of their hosts misses. The limited the Bucs to 12 second chance points.
– Five turnovers tied season low (at VMI). +7 turnover margin provided a 12-5 advantage on points off turnovers.
– The Mocs won the first 12 minutes of each half in a big way, 41-20. The final eight (approximate) went the Bucs way 45-26.

Take a deeper dive into the numbers at the link above.

SERIES
Meetings: 92
Record: 48-44 (16-25 road)
SoCon Regular Season: 34-25 (15-16 road)

SOCON SCOREBOARD
at The Citadel 74, Western Carolina 63
Wofford at Furman, 6 p.m.

NEXT 3 OPPONENTS
Feb. 10: at Wofford, 7 p.m. | Current Record: 11-6/8-3 | Next Opp: Chattanooga (Feb. 10)
Feb. 13: The Citadel, Noon | Current Record: 10-7/3-7 | Next Opp: ETSU (Feb. 10)
Feb. 15: ETSU, 7 p.m. | Current Record: 11-7/7-3 | Next Opp: at The Citadel (Feb. 10)

Categories: College, Sports, Sports – Local Sports News, Sports – UTC Mocs