Graduate David Jean-Baptiste scored a game-high 26 points while sophomore Malachi Smith added 21 during a season-opening 75-64 win over Loyola Marymount on the road in Los Angeles, California on Tuesday night inside a raucous Gersten Pavilion.
Jean-Baptiste and Smith become the first duo to post 20 or more points in a season opener since 2016. Chattanooga extends its non-conference winning streak to a program best 13 games following the win.
“I am really happy for these guys. This is as excited as I have been this early in the season,” said head coach Lamont Paris.
“It’s just about winning the game, but how the guys responded, and how they’ve enjoyed this trip. It has been an awesome trip and I love coaching this team, honestly.”
In much of a back-and-forth affair, Chattanooga withstood five LMU three-pointers in the opening half despite finding the bottom of the net just twice (2-for-9, 22.2%) in the opening frame. The Lions led by as much as four, 26-22, before a Silvio De Sousa free throw and Jean-Baptiste three-ball tied the game at 26.
The Mocs would take a brief 30-28 lead before the half on a Malachi Smith driving layup, but the home team scored seven of the final 10 points to take a 35-33 lead at the break.
It was all Chattanooga to open the second half. After falling behind 42-38, the team from the Scenic City went on a 10-0 run highlighted by four points from Josh Ayeni and six from Smith to race ahead 48-42 and force a timeout from the hosts.
The lead would not relinquish. LMU cut things to as close as two at 61-59 with 1:43 left in the game, but Jean-Baptiste nailed his fifth three of the game to put the Mocs up 64-59 with 1:24 on the clock. Darius Banks came up with a steal on the ensuing LMU possession and slammed home a breakaway dunk to make it 66-59, eventually leading to a 75-64 final.