The Chattanooga Mocs needed something good to happen to them in the worst way as they’ve struggled in recent weeks, so a convincing 82-63 victory over The Citadel Bulldogs at McKenzie Arena Wednesday night may have been just the medicine the doctor had ordered.
The win evens Chattanooga’s record at 13-13 overall and improves the Mocs to 5-8 in the Southern Conference after snapping a two-game losing streak with an impressive performance.
The loss is the fifth straight for the Bulldogs, who had been tied with the Mocs for eighth place in the league before Wednesday’s game. They are now 9-17 overall and 4-9 in the league.
Chattanooga had won only one of its previous seven games and the confidence level had dropped in recent weeks, but there were a lot of smiles all the way around on Wednesday night after the good guys got back on the winning side.
“That was a really good win for us as we needed something to stop the bleeding,” said Chattanooga coach Dan Earls following the game.
“We forced 21 turnovers and that helps everything, but I thought we did a nice job of making adjustments after the half. It was a tight game at that point, but our defense was better in the second half and that seemed to help our shooting.
“I really appreciate how these guys have continued to work hard during this stretch and it’s nice to see smiles on their faces. It’s nice they finally got rewarded a little bit for all their hard work,” Earls added.
Stephen Clark, the leading scorer for the Bulldogs who came in averaging 17 points per game, gave his team the lead with a bucket in the first minute of the game before the Mocs scored 13 unanswered points in the next four minutes.
Just as quickly, The Citadel went on a 10-0 run to make it 13-12 following a layup by Brady Spence with 11:55 left in the opening half.
The Bulldogs had a one-point lead four times in the last seven minutes before K.C. Hankton gave Chattanooga the lead with just over two minutes remaining on a layup.
A drive down the lane by A.J. Smith with 33 seconds remaining knotted the score at 38 before Hankton banked a 3 from the key at the buzzer to give Chattanooga a 41-38 lead at the break.
A steal and layup by Dalvin White and another bucket by Caldwell gave the Mocs a 45-38 lead to start the second half, but it was a 19-0 run a few minutes later that totally broke The Citadel’s back.
David Maynard sank a 3 from the corner with 15:31 to play to cut Chattanooga’s lead to 49-45, but by the time Smith scored on a layup more than five minutes later, the difference was 68-45 as the Mocs made five 3s during the stretch to totally blow the game open.
A drive down the lane by Khristian Courseault with five minutes to play gave Chattanooga its biggest lead at 80-55 before the Bulldogs scored eight of the final 10 points to make the final score just a bit more respectable.
Jamal Johnson scored 24 points to lead three UTC players in double figures. Caldwell was next with 11 while Jamaal Walker added 10.
Clark topped the Bulldogs with 15 points, but only five in the second half. Austin Ash was next with 13 while Smith finished with 11.
Clark grabbed eight rebounds and Smith seven as the Bulldogs won the rebound battle by a 34-27 margin. Sam Alexis was tops for Chattanooga with six.
The Mocs will be at home again on Saturday for a 2 p.m. tip against Mercer while the Bulldogs stay on the road for a game at Samford on Saturday.
THE CITADEL (63) – Clark 15, Morgan 3, Maynard 5, Ash 13, Durr 6, Smith 11, Spence 8, Carpio 2, McAllister.
CHATTANOOGA (82) – Hankton 5, Caldwell 11, Walker 10, Johnson 24, White 5, Alexis 9, Courseault 7, Davis 5, Robinson 3, Brady 3, Taylor Jr., Ledford.
FIELD GOALS: The Citadel 23 of 51 for 45.1 percent; Chattanooga 31 of 63 for 49.2 percent.
3-POINT GOALS: The Citadel 6 of 21 for 28.6 percent (Clark 2-3, Morgan 1-6, Maynard 1-3, Ash 2-6, Durr 0-2, Smith 0-1); Chattanooga 15 of 34 for 44.1 percent (Hankton 1-3, Caldwell 3-6, Johnson 5-10, White 1-5, Alexis 1-1, Courseault 1-4, Davis 1-1, Robinson 1-2, Brady 1-1, Ledford 0-1).
FREE THROWS: The Citadel 11 of 14 for 78.6 percent; Chattanooga 5 of 7 for 71.4 percent.
REBOUNDS: The Citadel 34 (Clark 8, Smith 7, Maynard 6); Chattanooga 27 (Alexis 6, Johnson 4).
ASSISTS: The Citadel 9 (Durr 4); Chattanooga 14 (Walker 4, Davis 3).
TURNOVERS: The Citadel 21 (Clark 6, Durr 5); Chattanooga 12 (Walker 3, Alexis 2, Courseault 2).
STEALS: The Citadel 8 (Ash 3, Clark 2, Morgan 2); Chattanooga 13 (Johnson 4, Hankton 2, White 2, Davis 2).
BLOCKS: The Citadel 2 (Clark, Spence); Chattanooga 4 (Hankton, Walker, Johnson and Alexis one each).
HALFTIME SCORE: Chattanooga 41-38.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)