The Chattanooga Mocs powered past Western Carolina 83-73 Friday night in McKenzie Arena. Five Mocs posted double digits led by Z. Mason’s (Nashville, Tenn.) 23 points in the key Southern Conference victory.
“Good win, I’m really proud of our guys,” said Head Coach Will Wade. “That’s the best we’ve played since Elon. Played with an edge…played with a toughness.
“We lost it there in the last six minutes of the first half but recovered it in the second half and did a really nice job.”
Gee McGhee (Baton Rouge, La.) tallied 16 points with a career-high 15 rebounds. Casey Jones (New Orleans, La.) added 14 points, while Ronrico White (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Martynas Bareika (Kedainiai, Lithuania) came off the bench to score 11 and 10, respectively.
Brandon Boggs paced Western Carolina with 21 points. James Sinclair added 15 points and a team-high-tying six boards, as Trey Sumler netted 12.
Bareika’s three-pointer with 12:05 to play gave Chattanooga its biggest lead of 16, 65-49. The Catamounts answered with a 12-0 run over the next five minutes to get within four, 65-61, on a Sinclair trey. Mason ended the skid with a jumper at 7:02.
Sinclair scored on the Cats next possession on a driving reverse layup.to cut the margin back to four, 67-63. That’s as close as it would get.
Two McGhee free throws and a thunderous tip dunk from Mason pushed it back to eight. The Mocs made their free throws down the stretch hitting 10-of-11 in the final minutes to preserve the victory.
The win puts Chattanooga at 10-2 in the SoCon, a half-game behind Davidson in first at 10-1, and 16-11 overall. Western falls to 14-12, 7-4 in league play.
It was a bruising, physical contest as the two squads combined for 45 fouls and 61 free throws. Chattanooga had a 49-38 advantage on the boards behind McGhee’s 15 and Mason’s eight.
“It’s the first time we were able to do some work on the backboards in a while,” Wade added. “We did a really nice job sharing the ball and were strong on weak-side rebounding with our guards. For the most part our guards did a good job.
“Gee McGhee did a really nice job picking up 15 rebounds.”
The Mocs limited their visitors to 38.2 percent shooting, 26 of 68, from the field including 16.0 percent (4-25) from beyond the arc, a season low for an opponent. Chattanooga shot 42.6 percent (26-61) from the floor, 37.5 percent (6-16) from 3pt range.
It was a quick start for the Catamounts scoring on their opening two possessions for a 4-0 lead on baskets by Sinclair and Kenneth Hall. Chattanooga produced 10 consecutive defensive stops keying a 17-0 run capped by two White free throws at 12:17.
The lead swelled to 16, 30-14, on Lance Stokes’ fast break slam off a nice feed from White after a steal near midcourt. It was 14 after a three-pointer by Bareika, 37-23, with 5:04 remaining until the break. Western made a charge.
Sumler’s layup with 1:30 left ended a 14-2 spurt to get within two, 39-37. McGhee ended the run with a three-point play at 1:14 to send his squad into the half up 42-38.
The Mocs remain at home for their next opponent. Georgia Southern invades McKenzie Arena next Thursday at 7 p.m. Purchase tickets on GoMocs.com or by calling the ticket office at 266-MOCS (6627). Listen to Voice of the Mocs Jim Reynolds on ESPN the Zone 105.1 FM in Chattanooga or worldwide on GoMocs.com.