Junior guard Ronrico White scored a career-high 28 points to lead the Chattanooga Mocs to a 90-81 win over Samford in McKenzie Arena. Chattanooga led wire-to-wire and now sits atop the Southern Conference standings at 3-0, 9-8 overall.
White was fantastic all night. He was a perfect 12-12 from the free throw line while hitting six-of-10 from the field including four-of-six from beyond the arc. The Knoxville native added four assists tying his season high turned in Monday night at The Citadel.
“I thought it was a tale of two halves,” Head Coach Will Wade said. “We played really well in the first half. We played our style of play and got turnovers, but we were not as aggressive the second and held on for dear life. They changed their lineup. They got bigger and held us off the offensive glass but give our guys credit.”
Four others tallied double digits for the Mocs. Z. Mason (Nashville, Tenn.) extended his double-double streak to six games with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Casey Jones (New Orleans, La.) added 14 points hitting all seven shot attempts, while Martynas Bareika (Kedainiai, Lithuania) and Gee McGhee (Baton Rouge, La.) chipped in 12 and 11, respectively.
Samford, which falls to 6-12 and 0-3 in the league, also had five scorers reach double figures. Tim Williams, Tyler Hood and Isaiah Williams each scored 15 pints. Connor Miller had 12, and Jordan Capps added 10 points and team-high eight rebounds.
Jones got the Mocs started in a big way. He scored 12 of his 14 in the first 10-plus minutes of the contest on an assortment of dunks and jumpers. The 12th point was on a jumper at 9:39 staking Chattanooga to a 24-14 advantage.
Capps scored a layup at 5:17 to get the Bulldogs with eight, 32-24. The Mocs answered with a 14-3 run to take its largest lead, 46-27, on a Mason free throw after back-to-back Bareika treys. It was a 48-33 margin at the break.
There was an ebb and flow the rest of the way. Samford closed within 10 or 11 points, and then Chattanooga got it back to 15. A Miller three-pointer at 7:36 finally got the Bulldogs inside single digits, 71-62. But the Mocs would not let it slip away.
Samford continued to chip away at the lead making it an eight-point game, 77-69, on Tim Williams’ layup at 2:40. Mason came up big with a monster tip dunk at 2:27 and then two free throws at 1:53 to keep it a 10-point game.
The Bulldogs got as close as five, 86-81, on an Isaiah Williams three-pointer with 18 seconds left, but could get no closer. White (6-6) and McGhee (2-2) hit all eight free throws in the final 35 seconds to keep the visitors at by.
The Mocs have now won five in a row, a first since a six-game win streak in 2009-10. The squad is 3-0 in the SoCon for the first time since a 7-0 start in 2010-11. That’s good for a half-game lead in the league standings over Western Carolina and Davidson at 2-0.
It was a tale of two halves for the home team. Chattanooga shot 51.5 percent (17-33) in the opening frame, but just 38.1 percent (8-21) in the second 20. It hit a season-best 47.4 percent (9-19) from three-point range and went 31 of 41 from the charity stripe (75.6%).
“It’s always a boost when we shoot it well,” Wade added. “We took good ones…we took inside-out ones, we touched the paint and we took 10 toes to the rim. We got the defense to collapse so we could kick it out and take good threes.
“We got a good win, but now we need to flip the page and prepare for Wofford on Saturday.”
The Mocs return to the Roundhouse Saturday to host Wofford. Game time is set for 7 p.m. The game can be listened to live on ESPN 105.1 FM the Zone in the Scenic City, or go to the men’s basketball schedule page on GoMocs.com for links to video (PPV), audio (free) and live stats. You can follow @GoMocsMBB on twitter for live updates as well.