The Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team used an efficient second half effort to help rally for a 69-62 victory over Tennessee Tech, clinching the 2021 Coke Zero Sugar Classic presented by 3H Group and Springhill Suites Downtown Chattanooga, on Tuesday evening inside McKenzie Arena.
Following the win, Chattanooga improves to 3-0 on the young season. Tennessee Tech falls to 1-2 overall after the defeat.
In a physical matchup, the Mocs were out-rebounded 41-32 on the glass and saw a 34-26 disadvantage on points scored inside the paint. UTC shot 14-of-28 (50.0%) in the second half after hitting just 11-of-31 (35.5%) in the first to help complete the rally.
“Tennessee Tech has a physical team and they played hard. You could tell by how [Tennessee Tech] played that they wanted to win,” said head coach Lamont Paris.
“It was good to get into the situation late in the game that we needed to make some plays. We made some basketball plays but we did not execute and didn’t make decisions in some areas that we wanted to make. Man, the rematch will be fun.”
Tennessee Tech opened the game shooting 6-of-9 (66.7%) from the floor to help take an early 13-10 lead. Malachi Smith knocked down his first two three attempts in the early stretch to keep UTC within a possession.
The Mocs struggled offensively early on, making just four of its first 17 attempts (23.5%) from the field. David Jean-Baptiste knocked down a pair of treys while KC Hankton added another to tie things 21-21 with 6:47 left in the opening half.
It would remain a defensive battle throughout the end of the first half as Chattanooga was limited to just four points in the paint at the break. Darius Banks knocked down the team’s seventh three at the buzzer to send the Mocs to the locker room down a point, 32-31.
The two teams went back-and-forth to open the second half with each squad making its first four shots, pushing the tally to a 42-41 advantage for UTC. After being deadlocked at 44-44, the Mocs went on an 8-1 run highlighted by six points from Avery Diggs off the bench to pull ahead 52-45.
Chattanooga pulled ahead at its largest lead of the game, 61-50, after Hankton cashed in on a driving layup through contact with 4:09 left on the board. A few Mocs miscues down the stretch allowed TTU to pull within five at 67-62 with 21 seconds, but a pair of Jean-Baptiste free throws and a defensive stop clinched the 69-62 final for the hosts.
Smith led all scorers with 18 points and flirted with a triple-double stat line after finishing with eight rebounds and six assists. Hankton (13), Jean-Baptiste (12) and Banks (10) all reached double digits while Banks ended the day with six assists and a team-best +12 in the +/- category.