The Chattanooga Mocs had a chance to get a big Southern Conference basketball win Saturday afternoon at McKenzie Arena, but they simply couldn’t hang on when it got to crunch time in the second half.
A 37-34 halftime lead turned into a 74-66 defeat against North Carolina Greensboro after the Spartans outscored the Mocs 40-29 in the final 20 minutes.
Chattanooga has allowed big second halves in all five league games they’ve lost, including 42 points against Furman, 47 against VMI, 52 against the Citadel and 55 against Wofford.
Greensboro improves to 10-5 overall and 4-2 in league play while Chattanooga falls to 12-5 overall and 3-5 in league play. The Spartans have now won four straight games and have a winning streak of six in road contests.
A pair of runs in the second half proved to be the difference as a 10-0 run turned a 57-48 deficit into a 58-57 lead with 5:10 to play. Then with the Spartans holding a 63-62 lead with less than three minutes remaining, the Spartans went on a 9-0 run for a commanding 10-point lead with less than a minute to play.
It was another disappointing finish for the Mocs and head coach Lamont Paris.
“I thought we were playing our style of basketball at that point with the nine-point lead, but those were significant runs that sort of deflated us,” Paris told Jim Reynolds in the post-game radio show.
“A lot of things went our way as we built that lead, but we got stale and stagnant on the offensive end at the finish. We gave up way too many second-chance points and you can’t do that. I also thought we did a good job defending Isaiah Miller. When you do a good job against their best player, you normally have a good chance of winning, but they were very efficient down the stretch and that cost us,” Paris added.
Miller, the talented six-foot senior who was picked as the Southern Conference pre-season Player of the Year, is the leading scorer for the Spartans as he entered with an average of almost 19 points per game. He left the game early in the second half and missed almost six minutes before returning, but he didn’t have his best game after scoring only eight points.
Greensboro coach Wes Miller admitted that his heart skipped a few beats when his best player went down, but totally relieved when he returned to action a little later.
“I think we were all relieved to know he wasn’t hurt seriously, but we had several guys step up when he went out,” Miller said shortly after the game ended.
“We put ourselves in a hole in the second half and Chattanooga was responsible for that, but we were able to battle back starting on the defensive end. We were finally able to put some shots together there at the end, but it was definitely not our best 40 minutes of basketball.
“We were able to play terrific basketball down the stretch and that was the difference in the game,” he added.
Darius Banks scored 18 points to lead Chattanooga’s effort, including 14 points in the second half. He scored 10 of UTC’s first 12 points in the second half and added a forceful slam with 7:46 to play for a 57-48 Chattanooga lead, but the Mocs went more than three minutes without scoring and that gave the visitors a chance to get back in it.
That final 9-0 run by the Spartans gave them a 72-62 lead with less than a minute remaing.
Malachi Smith and K.C. Hankton scored in the final minute for the Mocs, but that deficit was simply too much to overcome.
Angelo Allegri topped the Spartans with 17 points while Jarrett Hensley and Kaleb Hunter were also inn double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Keyshaun Langley and Hayden Koval both had nine while Miller added eight.
Banks was tops for Chattanooga with 18 points while David Jean-Baptiste had 13 and Smith 12. Hankton was next with nine.
The Spartans also enjoyed a 40-26 advantage on the boards after holding a 20-12 advantage at intermission.
Mohanned Abdulsalam led the way for the winners with eight, including five on the offensive end, while Hunter snagged seven. The Spartans had 15 offensive rebounds that led to a 20-4 advantage in second-chance points.
Smith had six rebounds for UTC while Banks had four.
The Mocs hit the road for their next three games, starting with ETSU on Thursday, before returning home on Feb. 6 to face East Tennessee State.
UNC GREENSBORO (74) – Abdulsalam 5, Allegri 17, Ke. Langley 9, Miller 8, Hunter 10, Koval 9, McGinnis, Leyte 4, Ko. Langley, Hensley 12, Thompson.
CHATTANOOGA (66) – Ayeni, Kenic 8, Jean-Baptiste 13, Banks 18, Smith 12, Caldwell 4, Hankton 9, Walker 2.
FIELD GOALS: UNC Greensboro 30 of 64 for 46.9 percent; Chattanooga 25 of 55 for 45.5 percent.
FREE THROWS: UNC-Greensboro 9 of 11 for 81.8 percent; Chattanooga 9 of 10 for 90 percent.
3-POINT GOALS: UNC-Greensboro 5 of 20 for 25 percent (Allegri 3-7, Ke. Langley 0-5, Hunter 0-2, Koval 0-1, McGinnis 0-3, Hensley 2-2); Chattanooga 7 of 21 for 33.3 percent (Kenic 2-3, Jean-Baptiste 3-6, Banks 0-3, Smith 2-3, Caldwell 0-1, Hankton 0-5.
REBOUNDS: UNC Greensboro 40 (Abdulsalam 8, Hunter 7); Chattanooga 26 (Smith 6, Banks 4).
ASSISTS: UNC Greensboro 13 (Ke. Langley 4, Miller 2, Ko. Langley 2); Chattanooga 12 (Jean-Baptiste 5, Banks 3, Caldwell 2).
TURNOVERS: UNC Greensboro 8 (Allegri 2, Miller 2); Chattanooga 9 (Smith 4, Kenic 3).
STEALS: UNC Greensboro 4 (Allegri 2); Chattanooga 5 (Caldwell 2).
BLOCKS: UNC Greensboro 2 (Koval 2); Chattanooga 3 (Ayeni, Banks, Caldwell).
HALFTIME SCORE: Chattanooga 37-34.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)