ASHEVILLE, N.C. --- The Chattanooga Mocs (13-19) could not hold off UNCG (9-21) losing 87-81 in the opening round of the 93rd Southern Conference Championship Friday in ExploreAsheville.com Arena. UTC led by as many as 11 in the game, but the Spartans closed strong to steal the win.
Z. Mason (Nashville, Tenn.) led the Mocs with 20 points and eight rebounds. Ronrico White (Knoxville, Tenn.) chipped in 19 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Derrell Armstrong willed UNCG to the win. He scored 22 of his game-high 25 in the second half and grabbed eight boards tying Mason for game-high honors. Trevis Simpson added 17 points and five assists.
The Spartans made runs at the Mocs three times early in the second half only to see Chattanooga push back to double digits. Mason’s jumper with 10:08 to play made it 67-56. UNCG responded with a 14-1 run to take its first lead of the game on a Jordan Potts trey, 70-68. It was a lead that would not be relinquished.
It was a one-point game after White’s jumper at 6:20, 72-71, when the Spartans erupted again. Armstrong scored seven straight to start an 11-3 run to drive the lead to nine, 83-74 after Kayel Locke hit one of two at the charity stripe with 2:55 to play.
The Mocs got up off the mat and fought back. Jumpers by Casey Jones (New Orleans, La.) sandwiched a three-pointer by White to cut the lead to two, 83-81, with 1:32 left.
Chattanooga forced a turnover from Potts and had the ball with just less than a minute to play. It was tossed inside to Mason who made a strong move to the paint but his shot caromed off. The Mocs fouled but made contact deemed to be an intentional foul by the official.
David Williams hit two free throws followed by Armstrong making one on the ensuing possession for an 86-81 advantage. Mason’s three was just off and a foul with seven seconds remaining led to Korey Van Dussen scoring the final point in the 87-81 win for the Spartans.
Jones scored 11 for the Mocs while Sam Watson (Knoxville, Tenn.) came off the bench for nine. Nic Paulos had 11 off the bench for UNCG, while Locke tallied 10.
The Mocs shot 49.1 percent from the field compared to 52.7 percent for the Spartans who shot 58.6 percent in the second half run scoring 55 after the break. The game featured 48 fouls and 60 free throws with UTC making 21 of 29 (72.4%) while its opponents hit 18 of 31 (58.1%).
Chattanooga jumped out to a 12-2 lead and led for the entirety of the first half. The lead swelled to 11 five times with the first coming on a White three-pointer to make it 16-5 with 15:24 left in the half. The Spartans would get within six but no closer until the second half. Two Mason free throws sent the Mocs into the break up 11, 43-32.
The season concludes for UTC while UNCG moves on to face No. 2 seed Elon Saturday evening at 6 p.m.