The Chattanooga Mocs claimed their first Southern Conference win of the season toppling visiting Samford 73-68 in McKenzie Arena. Four Mocs reached double figures as the squad got back to its normal defensive ways.
David Jean-Baptiste scored 22 to lead the way which was one more than Malachi Smith’s 21. A.J. Caldwell narrowly averted a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Josh Ayeni contributed 10 points. Myron Gordon’s 18 paced the Bulldogs.
The Mocs gave up season highs in points over the first two SoCon outings with 77 last Wednesday to Furman followed by 84 at VMI. Tonight’s 68 is the eight time with less than 70 allowed out of 12 starts with an 8-0 mark in those cases and 2-2 with 70 or more.
“I thought we did a good job defensively,” Coach Lamont Paris noted. “I looked down at the stat sheet at halftime, and they only had two transition points, which for them is a big part of what they do. We held them close to 20 points or so below their average. That’s more of what we’re trying to get done defensively.”
Jean-Baptiste was huge early, and Smith took over late. DJB scored 16 of his 22 in the first half, while Smith registered 13 in the final 6:59 of play.
Samford cut the Mocs seven-point advantage to two, 59-57, on a Gordon three-point play at 7:08. Smith stopped the spurt with a three and then his drive into the paint at 6:19 got the led back to seven, 64-57. The Bulldogs scored the next six points to get back within one on Christian Guess’ hook at 2:46.
Smith and Triston Chambers traded threes before Smith got back in the lane for a three-point lead, 69-66, with just 1:44 to go. Samford scraped and clawed its way back to a one-point game after Gordon’s short jumper with 1:08 to go.
The Mocs were clinical from there. Caldwell drove and scored a strong, floating jumper inside the free throw line. Gordon was fouled inside 20 seconds but missed both free throws. Caldwell boarded the second and got it to Smith who welcomed the foul with 16 seconds to go. He stepped to the line and hit both ends of the one-plus-one to secure the final.
This is the second straight game the Mocs were limited to eight student-athletes on the bench and playing just seven. Paris was quick to highlight the work of Coach Tyler Dobratz in athletic performance and Brenda Paider in sports medicine.
“The one success I had tonight, no one played 40 minutes,” Paris shared. “They have done a phenomenal job. These guys have worked very hard in the offseason. Before we were even allowed to touch a basketball with the workouts we were doing, they made a huge commitment along with the strength and conditioning staff, the trainers, to be in the best condition we have ever been.”
The Mocs are back on the road this weekend at The Citadel. Saturday’s tipoff is at 1 p.m., in Charleston airing on ESPN+ and over the airwaves in Chattanooga via WFLI 97.7 FM and 1070 AM.