Mocs second half surge sends MTSU home with loss

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC Athletics) — David Jean-Baptiste (24) and Malachi Smith (21) combined for 45 points to help lead the Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team to a big second half performance in a 77-65 win over Middle Tennessee on Wednesday night inside a raucous McKenzie Arena.

Following the non-conference finale victory, Chattanooga snaps a two-game skid and improves its season mark to 10-3. It’s the first 10-win non-conference slate since the 2015-16 campaign. MTSU falls to 9-4 on the year after the loss.

A tale of two halves, Chattanooga entered the break trailing 34-31 after a late MTSU three before the buzzer created the separation. It was all UTC in the second half as the squad out-scored its opposition 46-31 behind five huge, timely threes. The Mocs are now 4-1 this season when trailing at the half.

“They have a good team that plays really hard. They are long and athletic, and I thought we had a great response in the second half,” said head coach Lamont Paris following the game.

“We talked about taking the lead and once we took the lead, not looking back. What a great response and performance from our guys and a great note to go into Christmas holiday on so they’ll be all excited about getting toys and gifts. Really good effort for the guys and I’m happy for them.”

Middle Tennessee held a 7-5 lead at the first media timeout (15:22) before the game stretched out to a 17-14 difference in favor of the visitors at the 10:12 mark in the opening half. A.J. Caldwell and David Jean-Baptiste each knocked down a three in the early stretch with Caldwell leading the UTC offense with five quick points.

The Blue Raiders scored seven of the next 10 points to build a 24-17 lead before a technical foul (MTSU – taunting) stopped the clock at the 7:23 mark. UTC made a quick answer after the taunting technical foul led to two Jean-Baptiste free throws and a three pointer on the ensuing possession to cut it to 24-22.

Chattanooga tied the game up 31-31 with 11 seconds left on another Jean-Baptiste three ball but allowed a Blue Raiders three right before the horn and headed to the locker room down 34-31. UTC shot 38.5% (10-for-26) from the field in the first half while allowing an even 50.0% (13-for-26) clip from the opposition.

The two teams went back-and-forth for much of the opening parts of the second half as the game featured five different ties over the first ten minutes of action. The game was tied at 39, 41, 43, 45 and 47 before MTSU called timeout with a 51-47 edge (9:45).

Chattanooga answered with six-straight points, capped off by a Jamaal Walker three that gave the hosts its first lead of the game, to pull ahead 54-51 with 7:30 remaining in the game. The run would continue in emphatic fashion with three more threes, two from Jean-Baptiste and one from Smith to allow the Mocs to extend out to a 65-56 lead with 3:36 left.

After A.J. Caldwell was successful on a pair of free throws, it was Jean-Baptiste again who knocked down another triple to allow the lead to grow to 14, 70-56 with just 2:45. UTC led by as much as 17, 77-60, down the stretch before eventually dribbling out the clock for a 77-65 victory.

Following the slow first half start, the Mocs finished shooting the ball at a 47.1% (24-of-51) clip for the game which included a highly efficient 56.0% (14-of-25) tally in the second half. The hosts used five (5-of-8) timely threes in the last 20 minutes while limiting MTSU to a lowly 23.8% (5-of-21) mark from beyond the arc for the game. Chattanooga also used a 35-24 advantage in the rebounding category to help seal the deal.

Jean-Baptiste led the team with 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting which included six (6-of-8) threes. Smith flirted with the elusive triple-double, posting 21 points and a team-high 13 rebounds while adding in another team best in assists with five. Smith went 10-of-12 from the charity stripe to aid his scoring totals.

RECORDS – Chattanooga (10-3) – Middle Tennessee (9-4)

SERIES – Chattanooga now leads the all-time series 35-32.

– 8th straight game with a 20pt scorer…Malachi Smith (6x), Silvio DeSousa (2x) & David Jean-Baptiste (1x)… last time with eight straight games of at least one 20pt scorer? Jan. 10-Feb. 16, 2004 (10 games): Ashley Champion (6x), Jason Rogan (5x), Chris Brown (1x) & Alphonso Pugh (1x)… Brown (31 vs Western Carolina, Jan. 24) and Ashley Champion (30 at Charleston, Jan. 19) had one 30-point night each.

– Middle led 51-47 with 10:10 to play before the Mocs D held their visitors scoreless for 4:30 resulting in a 12-0 run taking a 59-51 lead on a Malachi Smith 3pt… out-scored the Blue Raiders 30-14 over the final 10:10.

– David Jean-Baptiste moved into fifth-place on the Mocs all-time scoring list passing the legendary trio of Gerald Wilkins (1983-85), Brandon Born (1991-95) and Walter “Moose” McGary (1972-74)… his 1,468 points are 180 shy of fourth-place David Bryan’s (1966-69) 1,648… his 241 career 3pt made are just two shy of all-time 3pt leader Stephen McDowell (2008-09)… the South Carolina transfer hit 243 in his two years with the Mocs.

Check out all the notes at the link above.

“It says a lot about the team. It’s around Christmas time too so there might be some people traveling. There were a lot of reasons for it not to be a great crowd, and it was. There’s a lot of excitement for our team and the guys. You have Silvio [De Sousa] putting his elbows in the rim. You have guys making big time plays and passes. I think this city is ready to explode. I hope they bring their popcorn.” – head coach Lamont Paris talking on the home crowd.

“Looking at our opportunity and taking every advantage of it. Every team that comes in once to beat us and if we just do what we are supposed to do, we’ll be in every game, if not win. With this being the last game before conference, we want to get that momentum.” – Malachi Smith on snapping the two-game skid.

Check out all the quotes at the link above.

UP NEXT – Chattanooga vs. ETSU – Thurs., Dec. 30 – ESPNU – 8PM ET – 2021-22 Schedule

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