Mocs stay perfect in SoCon, beat Citadel

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC Athletics) — Behind a fantastic defensive effort from Darius Banks, 27 points from Malachi Smith, and a double-double from Silvio De Sousa, the Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team ran away with an 85-67 victory over The Citadel in Southern Conference action inside McKenzie Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Chattanooga has now won its last four games and improved its overall record to 13-3 and SoCon tally to 3-0. The Citadel falls to 6-7 overall and 0-2 in league play.

A tremendous effort on both sides of the ball were key for the UTC victory. Banks held Citadel’s star Hayden Brown without a field goal while Smith, De Sousa and David Jean-Baptiste took care of igniting the offense. A team effort that made head coach Lamont Paris satisfied.

“That was a fun one. The guys played inspired defense, especially in the second half,” said Paris. “We showed more attention to the ball when it got around the basket. We did a good job on Hayden Brown. If we do a good job on him, that’ll limit their offensive ability.

“Darius Banks had the assignment. He wanted the job and accepted the job. He did a really good job and other guys helped as well. It was a really good team performance. I can’t say enough about what Darius Banks did against Hayden Brown,” Paris added.

David Jean-Baptiste opened the game doing what he does best, scoring the seven of the team’s first 11 points over the first four-plus minutes to help the Mocs grab an 11-8 lead (15:50). With a made three-point field goal at the 17:30 mark, Jean-Baptiste surpassed 1,500 career points as he remains fifth on the all-time UTC scoring list.

Grant Ledford and Malachi Smith each knocked down threes after a Citadel basket following the media timeout to put Chattanooga ahead 17-10 with 13:07 remaining in the first half. After going up 20-13 on an Avery Diggs free throw, Citadel responded with six-straight points to pull within one before a Smith three ended the run and put UTC ahead 23-19 at the 7:28 mark.

The lead would stretch to nine, 28-19 (5:54), before the Bulldogs cut it to five three minutes later, 32-27 (2:56), on the help of four points in the paint. A Darius Banks hook shot in the paint with 38 seconds left sent the Mocs into the break with a 36-31 lead.

For the half, Chattanooga shot 41.7% (15-of-36) from the floor including a 38.5% (5-of-13) mark from beyond the arc while connecting on just one free throw (1-of-4). The Bulldogs connected on 46.2% (6-of-13) of its three-point attempts as the Mocs held the advantage in the paint, 16-6.

The second half started with a Silvio De Sousa oop off a Jean-Baptiste alley before Smith knocked down his third three of the game to put UTC ahead 41-33. De Sousa continued the second half charge with a pair of enormous blocks with the latter transitioning into an AJ Caldwell three on the other end to extend the lead to 10, 46-36 (16:06).

The two teams would trade points over the next four-plus minutes as Chattanooga held on to the double-digit lead, 57-47 with 11:24 left in the game. The Mocs built its biggest lead of the game, 65-51 (9:40), after six-straight points from Smith on a three-ball in transition and a successful and-one in consecutive possessions.

It would be all UTC down the stretch as they never relinquished a lead less than 11 over the final 10 minutes of the game. The largest lead of the game came with 1:31 left on the clock, 82-62, before the eventual 18-point difference final, 85-67.

Smith posted another 20-plus scoring effort after dropping a game-high 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting and a 4-of-8 mark from three land. De Sousa posted his fourth double-double of the season after scoring 15 points and grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds. Jean-Baptiste (16) and Caldwell (11) combined to hit five threes and rounded out the four Mocs in double digits while the former surpassed 1,500 points in his career at UTC.

Banks controlled the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year Hayden Brown from start to finish, holding the strong forward to just four points, all coming via the free-throw line. He finished with six points, five rebounds, three steals and ended +23 in 31 minutes of action.

Chattanooga shot an even 50.0% (35-of-70) from the field and buried 10 threes (10-of-25) at a 40.0% clip. They earned the advantage on the glass 38-31 and dominated in the turnover category, scoring 22 points on 18 forced turnovers. The Mocs also controlled the points in the paint category by a wide 46-24 margin.

RECORDS – Chattanooga (13-3, 3-0 SoCon) – The Citadel (6-7, 0-2 SoCon)

SERIES – Chattanooga now leads the all-time series 69-19.

– Malachi Smith has scored in double figures in 10 straight averaging 25.0 points per game over that span shooting 91-149 overall (61.1%), 24-53 from three (45.3%) and 44-53 at the free throw line (83.0%).

– 15 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for Silvio De Sousa…added three blocks…third multi-block game in a row and eighth of the campaign…combined 28 points and 27 boards in 44 minutes of his last two appearances…four double-doubles.

– 22-2 advantage in points off turnovers…+8 in turnover margin forcing 18 while giving up 10…the Bulldogs two points came on free throws with 15:20 to go in the first half.

– Nine straight wins over teams with dog mascots…triumphed in 20 of the last 23 against teams that bark.

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“Wow. These people, those fans. The atmosphere, the energy and the motivation they bring is amazing. Whenever we come out on the court, we have to deliver for them. I’m just proud that we got the win today. I’m proud of my teammates and that we got the dub.” – Silvio De Sousa on playing in front of the home crowd.

“We are very versatile. Darius Banks does a lot of the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet; he’s like a Swiss army knife. We are able to hit you from multiple ways, we can go inside with Silvio [De Sousa] Avery [Diggs] and Josh [Ayeni] and outside with Darius [Banks], David [Jean Baptiste] and myself. Everyone knows their role and contributes in their ways. We have won in a variety of ways. We have won games where we didn’t shoot well because our defense stepped up.” – Malachi Smith on the team’s versatility.

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