RICHMOND, Ky.---A cold second half doomed the Chattanooga Mocs in a 79-68 loss at Eastern Kentucky in the season opener for both teams. The visitors led by as many as six in the first half and had a five-point advantage at the break.
The Colonels flipped the script with a 12-0 run to open the second 20.
"We did not recover from that," Coach Lamont Paris said on his postgame radio show. "There were a couple stretches where we could have made a move, and we just kind of hovered there. We just didn't make enough plays.
"When you're going up against an enlarged run like that, it's more than likely due to missed shots and turnovers on your end. It was definitely a combination of both and something we can't have happen."
The Mocs' 38-33 halftime lead vanished in the span of 64 seconds. Houston King's triple at 18:56 put EKU up for good, 40-38. The scoreless skid was snapped by Maurice Commander's coast-to-coast run for a five-footer in the paint. In the prior eight possessions, Chattanooga went 0-10 with several misses inside 10 feet along with an early turnover.
The group cut it to seven, 50-43, on a Rod Johnson three. That would happen two more times, but seven is as close as they could get it.
David Jean-Baptiste led the Mocs with 18 points. Matt Ryan chipped in 15 points with a career-best eight rebounds. Johnson added 12 points, five rebounds and two assists.
King scored a game-high 19 for the Colonels. Darius Hicks posted 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Jomaru Brown registered 14 points. That trio accounted for 32 of EKU's 46 second-half total.
It was a similar story in the opening 20 minutes but going the Mocs way. Hicks knotted the score at 31-all with 3:50 before intermission. After a couple of defensive stops both ways, A.J. Caldwell drilled a three. That was quickly followed by a Ramon Vila layup for a five-point spurt in just 44 seconds.
Caldwell made a steal on the next Colonel trip, but as the Mocs turned to offense, they turned it back over. Caldwell drilled another three, but the refs called him coming back on the court from out bounds at the catch negating what would have been an eight-point lead with significant momentum
The Colonels ended up scoring two late free throws. Jean-Baptiste's late jumper was off, but Vila was on the scene with the follow before the halftime buzzer.
The team begins prep for Saturday's home opener against historic rival Tennessee State. Tipoff is at 4:30 p.m., following the Mocs women's matchup with Hampton at 2 p.m.