The Chattanooga Mocs extended their winning streak to four games with a 71-60 victory over the Wofford Terriors Wednesday night at McKenzie Arena, but there was nothing easy about the win that improved UTC’s record to 17-4 overall and 7-1 in the Southern Conference.
The loss was the second in a row for Wofford as they dropped to 12-9 overall and 4-5 in conference play, but the Terriors certainly didn’t play like a team that lost by 25 at home last Saturday to Furman.
“They shoot the ball so well that I never felt comfortable, but we just kept playing, made a few shots and were able to get another big conference win,” said UTC coach Lamont Paris following the game.
“We just had to find a way as they were never out of the game. It was a very physical game and I felt like we played with fire at times. We did enough to win, but we could have finished better,” Paris added.
The game was billed as the “Suits & Sneakers Coaches vs. Cancer” to bring awareness to the continued battle against cancer. The win cost coach Paris $3,211 as he agreed to contribute a buck to the American Cancer Society for every fan in attendance.
Ryan Larson hit a 3 from the baseline in the opening minute to give the Terriors an early three-point lead and the visitors had the upper hand for the first half of the first half.
Malachi Smith canned a 3 from the baseline with 10:20 showing before intermission to give the Mocs their first lead at 16-14 and the Terriors never regained the advantage.
Larson scored on a layup in the final minute to cut Chattanooga’s lead to 32-23 at halftime.
David Jean Baptiste, one of three UTC players to score in double figures, opened the second half with a layup and added back-to-back 3s five minutes later to extend Chattanooga’s lead to 42-32, but Max Klesmit followed with a four-point play as the Terriors got back to within six with 13:30 remaining.
Wofford got it to within five points twice in the second half, but no closer as the Mocs were able to sink some big shots at the most opportune times.
A 3 by A.J. Caldwell with 58 seconds remaining gave UTC its biggest lead at 71-55 before the Terriors scored the final five points to make the final margin of victory 11 points.
Wofford coach Jay McAuley felt like his team played well, but just didn’t make the big shots at the right time.
“I thought we were a little bit tense at times. We had a lot of good looks, but just couldn’t knock them down. I thought we did a good job of keeping it close for the most part, but we just have to learn how to rely on simple things and to make the easy shots,” the head coach said in his post-game radio remarks.
“Chattanooga made some big-time plays as they made some huge baskets, but we had to play smart in a game like this and we didn’t always do that. But we do look forward to getting back home and playing in our gym on Saturday,” the third-year head coach concluded.
Smith, who was named the Southern Conference Player of the Week for the fourth time a couple of days ago, finished with 18 points and seven rebounds to lead the Mocs in both categories.
Jean-Baptiste and Darius Banks both followed with 13 and 12 points, respectively while Silvio DeSousa and Caldwell both had eight.
Big B.J. Mack led Wofford with 18 points and seven rebounds after scoring only six points in the first half.
Larson was next with 14 points while Klesmit finished with 13.
Wofford won the rebound battle by a 34-32 margin.
The Mocs will be on the road Saturday to face The Citadel and will play at Samford on Feb. 2 before returning home on Feb. 5 for a noon game with Mercer on a day when the Chattanooga women face Samford at 3.
WOFFORD (60) – Bigelow, Mack 18, Klesmit 13, Larson 14, Safford 3, Godwin 4, Turner 4, Patterson 2, Tripp, Appegren 2, Steelman.
CHATTANOOGA (71) – Hankton 3, Banks 12, DeSousa 8, Jean-Baptiste 13, Smith 18, Ayeni 4, Caldwell 8, Diggs 3, Ledford 2.
FIELD GOALS: Wofford 20 of 59 for 33.9 percent; Chattanooga 26 of 53 for 49.1 percent.
3-POINT GOALS: Wofford 9 of 34 for 26.5 percent; Chattanooga 11 of 25 for 44.0 percent.
FREE THROWS: Wofford 11 of 11 for 100 percent; Chattanooga 8 of 11 for 72.7 percent.
REBOUNDS: Wofford 34 (Mack 7, Bigelow 4, Klesmit 4, Larson 4, Safford 4); Chattanooga 32 (Smith 7, Caldwell 6, Hankton 5).
ASSISTS: Wofford 12 (Mack 4, Larson 3, Patterson 3); Chattanooga 16 (Caldwell 5, Smith 3).
TURNOVERS: Wofford 10 (Bigelow 3); Chattanooga 9 (Jean-Baptiste 3, Smith 2).
STEALS: Wofford 4 (Larson 2); Chattanooga 5 (Hankton 2).
BLOCKS: Wofford 1 (Mack); Chattanooga 2 (Hankton, Jean-Baptiste).
HALFTIME SCORE: Chattanooga, 32-23.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)