Mocs men dominate on Senior Day, 70-57

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC Athletics) — The Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team used a balanced attacked concluded the regular season with a 70-57 victory over the streaking Samford Bulldogs in Southern Conference action on Senior Day inside McKenzie Arena Saturday evening.

Following the win, Chattanooga finishes the regular season 24-7 overall and 14-4 inside league play. Samford saw its six-game win streak snapped as the squad finishes 20-10 overall and 10-8 during SoCon action.

UTC will now play in the Quarterfinals of the SoCon Tournament at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 5 against the winner of the No. 8/No. 9 (ETSU and The Citadel) matchup. For more information on the Southern Conference Tournament, please visit the championship website.

Chattanooga controlled much of the game as they led Samford for over 36 minutes. The Mocs saw balanced play on both sides of the ball as the squad featured seven different players scoring six or more points while forcing the Bulldogs into 13 turnovers.

Chattanooga took in the moment and celebrated the 2021-22 regular season crown with a net-cutting event on the floor following the game. It’s been a rewarding journey for head coach Lamont Paris to get to this point.

“It’s an incredible growth and it’s been so rewarding and fulfilling,” said coach Paris. “It wasn’t always easy and you couldn’t always see the light. We continued to improve every year, but it’s been a long time in the making.

“It’s extremely rewarding to look out at the gym before the game and see what the crowd was like. You take it all in and realize that you played a role in helping develop that.”

HOW IT HAPPENED
Both teams got off to a slow start over the first few minutes as Chattanooga held a 6-3 lead at the first media timeout (15:43). UTC found an offensive spark as Grant Ledford knocked down a three before a thunderous Silvio De Sousa dunk made it 11-6 at the 13:25 mark.

The Mocs continued to rock the McKenzie Arena crowd with back-to-back threes from A.J. Caldwell and Malachi Smith ahead of a charge taken from Darius Banks to pull ahead by double digits, 19-9, with 11:22 on the board. UTC kept pace on both sides of the ball and continued to lead by double digits, 23-13, at the under eight media (7:31).

Samford cut into the deficit with its fourth three of the half to pull within seven, 29-22 (2:58). The Bulldogs would get within six on two separate occasions before the hosts took a 34-26 lead into the break following a late Banks lay-in.

Chattanooga extended the lead to 11, 43-32 (15:29), ahead of the first media timeout of the second half after a strong start from De Sousa and KC Hankton. A defensive switch from Samford allowed the Bulldogs to go on a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to four, 45-41, with 11:21 left in the game.

Malachi Smith went coast to coast and laid down a thunderous dunk in transition to put UTC back up by nine, 53-42, at the 9:18 mark. Chattanooga started to pull away down the stretch as the lead grew to 14, 61-47 (2:54), behind a 9-2 run over five-plus minutes.

The Mocs closed things out in the most fitting of fashion as David Jean-Baptiste connected on potentially the final three-point attempt of his career in the Roundhouse as the squad closed out the 70-57 victory.

Chattanooga out-shot Samford 42.6% (26-of-61) to 38.9% (21-of-54) in the contest while also winning the battle on the glass by a 42-33 margin. UTC led for a whopping 36:37 after the Bulldogs grabbed its only lead of the contest less than a minute into the game.

Banks led the team in scoring with 16 points while flirting with a double-double behind seven rebounds. Smith posted 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds in addition to De Sousa’s effort of nine points and seven boards in 18 minutes of action.

RECORDS – Chattanooga (24-7, 14-4 SoCon) – Samford (20-10, 10-8 SoCon)

SERIES – Chattanooga now leads the all-time series 67-40.

NOTES TO KNOW
– The Mocs are the No. 1 seed in Asheville… they’ll face the winner of Friday’s ETSU/The Citadel 8-9 matchup in Saturday’s first quarterfinal contest… the other half of the bracket is still up in the air with a possibility of four teams ending up in a tie for third at 10-8 including UNCG which doesn’t finish its season until Sunday.

– 12-3 (.800) home record… 7-2 (.778) in conference play… most home wins overall and in league play since 13 and eight in 2015-16… 22nd Mocs team to win 12 or more in the Roundhouse in a season… 16th to win seven or more league games.

– 632 points this season for Malachi Smith is sixth in Mocs history… there are seven 600-point campaigns all-time with Smith joining William Gordon (700, 1976-77), Gerald Wilkins (672, 1984-85), Wayne Golden (657, 1976-77), Golden (635, 1974-75), Stephen McDowell (633, 2008-09) and Chad Copeland (604, 1993-94).

Check out all the notes at the link above.

QUOTABLE
“The one thing that when you come into tournament time, you have to be discipline in whatever your principles are. Whatever that is, you have to be feeling good about it. I want to have a good week of practice and enjoy ourselves out there. The guys will have a good weekend celebrating this, but then we’ll get back out there. We just need to play better than whoever we match up with.” – Lamont Paris on heading into the SoCon Tournament.

Check out all the quotes at the link above.

UP NEXT – Chattanooga vs. #8 or #9 Seed – Sat., March 5 – 12PM ET – 2022 SoCon Tournament

SOCON SCOREBOARD
Furman 94, at The Citadel 59

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

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