Mocs Earn 74-67 Road Win Over Western Carolina
(gomocs.com) CULLOWHEE, N.C.—The Chattanooga Mocs came back from a sluggish start to claim a 74-67 win at Western Carolina Wednesday night. The trio of Malachi Smith (22), David Jean-Baptiste (18) and Darius Banks (18) combined for 58 of the 74 points but multiple student-athletes made a difference in this one.
Cory Hightower’s two free throws with 14:26 to go in the first gave Western its largest lead of eight, 45-37. The Cats scored 17 points in the first 5:24 to seemingly take control of the game. Smith and Jean-Baptiste scored on three straight possessions before KC Hankton knotted the score at 45-all at the 12:37 mark.
Smith’s layup two minutes later gave his squad its first lead, but the Cats clawed back. Xavier Cork’s layup at 8:33 got the home team back on top, 52-51, but the Mocs were on the move. Hankton’s jumper five minutes later capped a 13-2 spurt gaining a 10-point advantage, 64-54. The first 11 of the run came from Jean-Baptiste and Banks. It never got closer than six.
Smith (5) and Jean-Baptiste (4) both tied career highs for steals as the Mocs were a +7 in turnover margin (9/16). Cork led five in double digits for Western Carolina with 18. He was joined by Mason Faulkner (13), Matt Halvorsen (12), Hightower (11) and Tyler Harris (11).
There was a big swing in shooting making the difference between a first half tie and second half win. The Mocs managed just 34.3 percent (12-35) overall including 39.1 percent (9-23) INSIDE the arc in the opening 20. They closed making 20 of 31 (64.5%) after the break with a more palatable 18-26 (69.2%) performance on two-point attempts.
Tonight was the start of a three-game road swing. The Mocs head to ETSU Saturday for a 4 p.m., tipoff in a game originally scheduled for the Roundhouse. The home matchup moved to Monday, Feb. 15, after last Wednesday’s postponement in Johnson City.
“It’s a hard place to win, a lot of teams struggle to win here. We had about 10 minutes of bad basketball and about 30 minutes of pretty good basketball so that was enough to make me and the rest of our group happy.” – Coach Lamont Paris
“It was a physical and mental break. We were losing our way and not being ourselves, so I think that week off gave us a chance to focus on us. With games on Wednesday and Saturday, when one game is over you have to focus on the next. It let us look in the mirror for a longer period of time and made us know where our flaws were.” – Malachi Smith on long layoff between games
“Belief in myself and the coaches and my teammates having confidence in me. It starts with them and it brings in that confidence within myself. And when that grows it leaves no doubt. It’s believing in myself and knowing I can make these shots.” – David Jean-Baptiste on confidence in shot selection