Mocs 1997 Basketball Team Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Sweet 16 Appearance
Chattanooga-(WDEF) In 1997 the Mocs basketball team became one of the darlings of the NCAA Tournament, making their first ever trip to the Sweet 16.
Players and coaches from that ’97 team were back in town recently for a 20 year reunion.
Guard Wes Moore and forward Johnny Taylor recall that special Mocs Madness.
Looking back 20 years, the Mocs were jacked to get a 14 seed and face Georgia to open the NCAA Tournament.
Said Taylor:”The years prior to that, we ended up getting to face like a number one seed like UConn or Wake Forest or somebody like that. So to get a three seed Georgia team, we felt really confident going into the tournament we could beat them.”
UTC raced out to a 15-0 lead against Georgia.
Bye bye Bulldogs as the Mocs won 73-70.
Said Taylor:”We were cooking that game. All the shots were falling. We caught them off-guard. We punched first, and it took them awhile to get back in the game. By that time, the final buzzer had sounded.”
Chattanooga then upset Illinois 75-63 to advance to the Sweet 16.
Said Moore:”The day after the Georgia win, you turn on ESPN, and Dickie V (Vitale) is talking about the UTC Mocs. Then we win the Sunday game and come back, and there’s thousands of people at the airport. Then you go to practice the next day, and CNN is there. USA Today is there. Sports Illustrated is there. It was crazy, but it was a lot of fun for everybody.”
But the joy ride ended in the Sweet 16 with a 71-65 loss to Providence.
Said Taylor:”I think it was more disappointing about the Providence game. I think we felt like we let one slip away. A few missed opportunities. A few missed free throws on my part.”
Despite those tough memories against Providence, it was still an incredible experience for the ’97 Mocs.
Said Moore:”We were reliving a memory. We walked into the Sweet 16. Kansas and Arizona are playing, which have three or four now NBA Hall of Famers. And it was late in the second half, and everybody stopped watching the game, and gave us a standing ovation. It was unbelievable.”
Said Taylor:”I think what makes it more touching is that it wasn’t done before us, and 20 years have gone by, and it hasn’t been done since.”