Kevin Easley’s 22 points and 12 rebounds led the Chattanooga Mocs in a 73-71 Southern Conference triumph over The Citadel Saturday afternoon in McKenzie Arena. For the second straight Saturday, Easley hit a big three-pointer in a key moment.
Down two as the clock ticked to the final minute, Jonathan Scott passed to Easley on the left wing. He paused with a defender right in front. The defense worried about the drive, but Easley drilled the three for a 70-69 advantage.
The Citadel worked the clock in the ensuing possession. Kaiden Rice’s three from the top of the key was off the mark. Jerry Johnson, Jr., grabbed the long rebound. He was eventually fouled in the front court. A trend developed.
Johnson made the first and missed the second. The defense got the stop then Donovann Toatley went to the line with 10.1 to play. He made the first and missed the second. Up three, the Mocs fouled. Lew Stallworth made both to get it back to one, 72-71, with 6.6 to go.
Jonathan Scott was immediately fouled with 5.8 left. He made the first and missed the second. Stallworth got the ball and pressed the issue. His drive to the goal was well-defended and the tough runner rolled out. Scott grabbed the board as time expired.
The Mocs held the nation’s No. 1 scoring team to more than 22 points beneath its 93.4 average.
“On (Matt) Frierson and (Zane) Najdawi, I thought we did a good job of not letting them get the ball in their typical situations and shoot with comfort,” Coach Lamont Paris stated. “I thought that was the biggest part. There were some other guys that got some open looks. They missed some. They had some open looks I am sure they would like to have had back.
“They were from some other guys who are typically not counted on to perform that same way. I thought that is where it started.”
The Mocs led by as many as 13, 45-32, early in the second half. The Citadel went on an 11-0 run capped by a Stallworth layup. The good guys maintained the lead until a 7-0 spurt put the visitors ahead by four, 62-58, with 6:49 remaining.
Toatley and Easley combined for a 7-0 run of their own to get the lead back to three, 65-62. Toatley started it with a three followed by Easley in the mid-range. Toatley ended it with two of three free throws. It went to the wire from that point.
Chattanooga moves into fourth-place in the SoCon standings at 5-2. Furman (4-2) is at league-leader Wofford (6-0) tonight UNCG (6-1) and ETSU (6-2) are just ahead in second and third. Samford (2-5), Mercer (2-5), Western Carolina (2-6), VMI (1-6) and The Citadel (1-6) follow.
The Mocs are back on the road next weekend. It starts on Thursday at Furman and ends Saturday at Wofford. Both games air on ESPN+. The squad returns to the Roundhouse in two weeks hosting Western Carolina (Jan. 31) and ETSU (Feb. 2). Tickets are available on GoMocs.com or by calling (423) 266-MOCS (6627).