The Chattanooga Mocs suffered their first loss of the season in a 77-73 nail-biter to Furman opening Southern Conference play. There were six lead changes in the final nine minutes, but the last was atypical of the Mocs season to date.
David Jean-Baptiste and KC Hankton led the Mocs off the bench with 18 and 17 points, respectively. The latter tying Hankton’s career high. Malachi Smith led all players with 10 rebounds. Mike Bothwell’s game-high 22 points paced the Paladins.
The last three games saw Chattanooga win in the final minutes. That didn’t continue today.
“Play making versus not,” Coach Lamont Paris summed it up afterward. “We didn’t make plays. We had a wide-open look for three, up one, and it didn’t go. They made some plays and we didn’t at the end of the day.
e just didn’t make plays to win the game at that time. I thought they were the more physical team.”
The Mocs led 68-67 with the ball and 4:06 left after A.J. Caldwell drew a charge on Noah Gurley fouling out Furman’s talented big man. The ensuing possession led to an open look from three for Hankton, who had hit three in a row, but the fourth was just off target.
The Paladins scored on their next two possessions, on Garrett Hien layups to get back ahead by three, 71-68, at 2:24. The Mocs cold stretch ended with 32 ticks on the clock with a 12-footer from Jean-Baptiste cutting it to two.
Bothwell sank two freebies before Smith’s three with 15 seconds to go made it a one-point affair, 74-73. The Mocs could not force a turnover in the press and sent Bothwell back to the line with the clock still offering hope above the 12-second mark. He made both setting up another deep three from Smith that was just off the mark. Hein made one of two to cement the final tally at 77-73.
Furman got off to a strong start scoring the game’s first nine points. Chattanooga answered with two Jamaal Walker threes book-ending a Caldwell swish from deep. It shuffled back-and-forth before the guest got the margin back to seven early in the second half on Jalen Slawson’s three at 16:28.
The hosts re-took the advantage on a strong post move from Josh Ayeni with 8:10 left, 62-61. It reached three on back-to-back buckets by Hankton with the latter three pushing his squad ahead 66-63.
The Mocs are at VMI Saturday at 1 p.m.