The Chattanooga Mocs had a little déjà vu all over again in their 70-64 win at Samford Wednesday night. The Mocs limited their opponent to a season-low 22 first-half points for the second straight game and then saw them catch fire in the second.
The key tonight was not getting burned. After Logan Dye’s floater with 14:31 on the clock gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead, 38-32, but the Mocs had answers.
Jamaal Walker drove into the paint and was blocked by Jacob Tryon. He battled for the rebound and then found A.J. Caldwell in the corner for three. After a defensive stop, Walker found the bottom of the net to get within one, 38-37.
Caldwell added another triple and the lead was back on the side of the good guys, but there was still 12:06 on the clock.
The Mocs threatened to pull away but Samford kept it close. It was a three-point game within two minutes. Malachi Smith drove, found KC Hankton who spun quickly and aggressively for the layup.
A Samford turnover turned into this moment. David Jean-Baptiste got the matchup he wanted off a switched screen to seemingly put it out of reach, 66-58.
A.J. Staton-McCray hit a three, and the Bulldogs followed two Malachi Smith free throws with a Jaron Rillie three-point play to get within four, 68-64. But that’s as close as it would get.
Smith was succinct and to the point in what got his side the win.
“I think it was our defensive effort,” he opined on the postgame show. “I think we did a good job in the first half. And then their run, we weren’t getting stops, and they were getting offensive rebounds. Coach told us to get back to getting stops and lock in defensively, and obviously we came out with the win.”
Smith led all scorers with 16 points narrowly missing his ninth double-double with nine rebounds. Jean-Baptiste and Darius Banks had 12 apiece, while Caldwell netted 10. Dye paced the Bulldogs with 13. Preston Parks totaled 12 as Staton-McCray added 11.
Chattanooga returns home to host UNC Greensboro on Saturday. Tipoff is at Noon on ESPN+ and over the airwaves in Chattanooga via WFLI 97.7 FM and 1070 AM.