It was déjà vu all over again for the Chattanooga Mocs. The game came down to the final possession just has it has done time and again this season. The Mocs ended up on the wrong side of a 70-68 decision at Western Carolina.
"That's another one,” Coach Lamont Paris said afterwards. “We couldn't manufacture a stop when we needed to tonight. We did not play well, and I didn't have a good feeling about it. Sometimes you feel okay being down five. I didn't feel good where we were for the majority of the game."
It was a back-and-forth affair from the start.
There were 21 lead changes and 11 ties over the 40 minutes. Neither team led by more than five all night.
Nat Dixon led all scorers with 21 points for the Mocs. Makale Foreman and Makinde London each tallied 12, while Rodney Chatman and David Jean-Baptiste registered 11 apiece. Deriece Parks paced the Catamounts with 17, all in the second half.
It was a 47-44 deficit with 10:18 to play when the visitors looked to take control. Chatman’s layup on a nice feed from London got the ball rolling. Jean-Baptiste capped a 7-0 spurt with a triple at 8:34 for the 51-47 advantage, the largest Chattanooga lead of the night.
It see-sawed from there into the final minute with the Catamounts up two, 68-66, on a Mike Amius three-point play. The Mocs worked the next possession with the ball ending up in Dixon’s hands. His jumper with 37.4 remaining knotted the score at 68-all.
The Cats looked inside for Amius. He fell as London collected the ball, but a late whistle came. London was called for his fifth foul as Amius hit the deck on the pass. The junior hit two free throws giving the ball to UTC for a final possession.
After a timeout with 13.4 seconds left, the Mocs worked the offense. Jean-Baptiste drove to the basket but the effort was off the mark. He got his own rebound and got a final try off. It bounded off backboard, then rim as the buzzer sounded.
Turnovers (15) and an unusual amount of fouls (18) proved frustrating.
"You can't do that with consistency and feel like you're going to win,” Paris added. “There's a lot of components that go into winning a basketball game. One of them is just playing…just playing basketball. We have to improve catching the ball without traveling. That killed us.
“Defending without fouling. I wrote that up on the board. I knew the way they play, and what they like to do, it needed to be mentioned. We didn't do that. We fouled, and it was the same guys we kept fouling. Breakdowns, miscues. Some missed free throws. They'll always come back to bite you."
The Mocs depart Cullowhee tonight for Johnson City, Tenn., and a Saturday matinee with ETSU. Tip off at 4 p.m., on the WatchESPN app (ESPN3).