Nat Dixon scored a career-high 21 points as the Chattanooga Mocs dropped a hard-fought 73-55 loss to Southern Conference leader Furman Wednesday night. The 21 points marked back-to-back 20-point nights for Dixon.
Rodney Chatman and Joshua Phillips supported Dixon’s career night with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Matt Rafferty led the Paladins with 17 points. Andrew Brown added 16. Preseason league Player of the Year Devin Sibley was limited to nine, but he grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Mocs had eight available players, five on basketball scholarship, but it did not limit their play over the first 30-plus minutes of game time. They whittled away at an early 16-point deficit closing to within three thrice in the second half.
Chatman’s layup with 14:01 remaining made it a 45-42 contest. Brown answered for Furman a minute later, but David Jean-Baptiste kept the pressure on with another layup, this one at 12:45.
Brown wasted little time with a layup of his own 11 seconds later. Defensive stops both ways ruled the court until Dixon’s free throws at 9:47 cut the margin to 49-46.
It was all Furman there. John Davis III ignited a 17-2 run with a three at 8:22. Daniel Fowler capped it nearly five minutes later with a layup for the 66-48 lead, the largest of the game, with 3:42 to go.
The main culprit was frigid shooting going 1-6 from the field and committing four turnovers during the pivotal stretch. Nine of the Paladins 17 points came off those four miscues.
"I think we lost focus,” sophomore Rodney Chatman shared. “It was part fatigue, and we slipped up. They hit two threes and extended the lead and just had it from there.
“I don't want to make that an excuse. We played hard and tried to win. We almost won with just seven guys, you have to do what you need to do."
Turnovers did not appear to be a huge issue for the home team as both had a matching 14. Furman held a 26-6 advantage in points off TOs for the contest including the key nine.
Despite the loss, Coach Lamont Paris found a shining light to focus on.
"It was a good effort,” he acknowledged. “Better than good effort I would say. That's the effort we need in every game. We got down and battled back defensively, we were really good during that stretch. There's a lot of factors that go into winning a basketball game and effort is a big one. There's some more basketball plays we need to be better at. From an effort standpoint, check that box.
“And you can see that gives you a chance to win the game."
The Mocs embark on a three-game road trek starting Saturday at The Citadel. Tipoff is at 1 p.m., on ESPN3. That contest is quickly followed by a Monday date at Mercer at 7 p.m., on Stadium.