Mocs win championship on March miracle

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (UTC Athletics) — A shot that will live forever. Graduate guard David Jean-Baptiste buried a highly-contested 30-foot jump shot to lift the Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team to the 2022 Southern Conference title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament, downing No. 2 Furman 64-63 in overtime on Monday evening inside Harrah’s Cherokee Center.

Chattanooga improves to 27-7 overall this season and earns a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016. The Mocs have won their 12th SoCon Tournament title in school history. Furman fell to 22-12 and will await a spot in postseason play.

A game that started slow, finished in a fashion that will be remembered forever in school history. After Furman grabbed a 68-66 lead with just 4.0 seconds left in overtime, Jean-Baptiste took the inbound, dribbled left, and fired a contested three from the sponsor logo.

That shot found nothing but the bottom of the net and sent the Harrah’s Cherokee Center, the Scenic City and college basketball watchers across the country into a frenzy. The highlight and moment peaked as the No. 1 trending topic on social media waves in the US.

“Just unbelievable. I always talk about this book that I’m going to write when this is all said and done, and the longest chapter will be titled, ‘DJB III,'” said head coach Lamont Paris.

“It’s surreal what has transpired, the good, the bad, the ugly, we’ve been all over the place as a team, and for it to come down to that, I literally am now committed to writing that book and telling that story.”

Malachi Smith was named the Most Outstanding Player for the tournament while Jean-Baptiste (All-Tournament), Silvio De Sousa (All-Tournament) and Grant Ledford (Pinnacle – Academic) all cleaned up postseason tournament awards.

Jean-Baptiste, when asked to chime in on the life-changing moment, “It was surreal. I knew I had four seconds left, tried to put myself in the best position possible just to get the shot up, and it felt like it took forever for the ball to reach the basket, but once I saw it hit the net, I couldn’t feel no more after that. It was unbelievable.”

HOW IT HAPPENED
Both teams saw a super slow start as they combined to go 0-for-9 from the field before Malachi Smith broke the scoreless streak with a floater at the 16:34 mark. AJ Caldwell and Furman’s Jalen Slawson traded threes as the score became knotted at 7-7 with 13:00 left in the opening half.

Chattanooga continued to struggle on the offensive end as the squad started 4-of-17 from the field to start the game before a David Jean-Baptiste layup made it 16-11 in favor of Furman at 8:02. The Paladins went up by us much as seven, 18-11, before UTC closed the gap to four, 20-16 (3:06).

The Paladins would close the opening half on a 6-0 run to take a 26-16 advantage into the break. UTC finished the half just 1-of-12 (8.3%) from beyond the arc and 7-of-25 (28.0%) from the field in total while turning the ball over seven times which led to nine Furman points.

Chattanooga opened the second half on a 13-0 run with the help of six points from KC Hankton to cut the deficit to five, 28-26, with 15:29 on the board, before Jean-Baptiste put UTC back ahead 29-28 at the 14:44 spot. A back-and-forth affair over the next few minutes saw Silvio De Sousa hit a driving layup to keep the Mocs ahead 33-32 (11:54).

Jean-Baptiste send the crowd into a roar with his first three of the game that extended the Chattanooga lead to eight, 40-32, with 9:38 left in the game. Furman responded with a crucial 7-0 run to pull within one before a Smith layup brought it back to three, 42-39 (6:36).

UTC extended the three-point lead to seven, 46-39, before the Paladins answered with a 7-0 run that tied the game at 46-46 with just 2:12 remaining. Silvio De Sousa, who dominated the paint all game, tipped in a missed layup from Jean-Baptiste to make it 51-48 in favor of the Mocs with 23 seconds.

Furman’s Mike Bothwell called plans for overtime as he hit a step-back three to tie the game, 51-51, just before the regulation horn and started what would be a hectic next five minutes of game play.

A back-and-forth efficient battle broke out in the extra period as the Paladins and Mocs combined to go 9-of-10 from the field in the session with the former going a perfect 5-of-5. Bothwell hit another huge shot to put Furman ahead 56-53 before Jean-Baptiste answered with a trey on the ensuing possession to tie it, 56-56 (1:59).

Furman held a 61-58 lead with just 43 seconds left before A.J. Caldwell became A.J. Caldwell and hit a game-tying three with just 24 ticks on the clock. Bothwell put the Paladins back in front with a driving layup, 63-61 (0:04), before Jean-Baptiste shocked the entire country on national TV.

RECORDS – Chattanooga (27-7) – Furman (22-12)

SERIES – Chattanooga is now 57-37 all-time against Furman and 6-4 in the SoCon Tournament.

NOTES TO KNOW
– Record-tying 12th SoCon Tourney Crown for Chattanooga… matches Davidson which took 74 years to reach that number compared to 45 for the Mocs… 60th SoCon Tournament triumph… one of two schools – Davidson (64) – with 60 or more in the event…60-33, 12-8 in the finals… the last buzzer-beater for the Mocs before DJB’s heroics tonight? Ronrico White ’15 on Feb. 28, 2015 at UNCG for a 61-58 win.

– Comeback from 10-point halftime deficit (16-26) is largest since Nov. 2019’s return from 12 down (27-39) at Troy… largest in a postseason game at the DI level… all-time record is 15 on March 4, 1938 coming back to beat Rhodes 48-47 after being down 32-17 in the Dixie Conference Quarterfinals.

– Incredible performance from Silvio De Sousa… 17 points and 14 rebounds… 6th double-double… tied career high for rebounds (The Citadel-Jan. 8)… 7-10 shooting and 3-5 at free throw line… team high +9 in a career-high 30:51 of playing time.

Check out all the notes at the link above.

QUOTABLE
“They have such a good team, and it’s beyond they are such a good team. They communicate well, how they interact together with the coaches, they had it together, and we didn’t have it together when I first got here. You look at them and say ‘we have to get to that point.’ Bob (Richey) does a tremendous job with his team, they compete like crazy, they know who they are, and all the credit in the world to them. I can’t say enough about them and how good they are, and how resilient they were to also put themselves back in position to win the game.” – Lamont Paris on Furman.

“I think it was the very first practice, I remember telling the guys in the locker room, ‘You think playing ball in fun? Just make it to the NCAA tournament, you’ll have a lot more fun.’ I just hope they will get to enjoy it, and just have the fun I once told them about.” – Silvio De Sousa on playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Check out all the quotes at the link above.

UP NEXT – 2022 NCAA Tournament – TBD – Selection Sunday – March 13

SOCON TOURNAMENT RESULTS/SCHEDULE
Friday, March 4 (ESPN+)
Game 1 – (9) The Citadel 84, (8) ETSU 76 (OT)
Game 2 – (7) Mercer 81, (10) Western Carolina 53

Saturday, March 5 (ESPN+/Nexstar)
Game 3 – (1) Chattanooga 71, (9) The Citadel 66
Game 4 – (4) Wofford vs. (5) VMI, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5 – (2) Furman 80, (7) Mercer 66
Game 6 – (3) Samford 66, (6) UNCG 64

Sunday, March 6 (ESPNU)
Game 7 – (1) Chattanooga 79, (4) Wofford 56
Game 8 – (2) Furman 71, (3) Samford 68

Monday, March 7 (ESPN)
Championship – (1) Chattanooga 69, (2) Furman 68 (OT)

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