Sophomore guard Malachi Smith dropped 20 points and drilled the go-ahead jumper with less than a second left to help lift the Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team to a 56-54 road win at perennial mid-major power VCU on Saturday afternoon inside a raucous Siegel Center in Richmond, Va.
Following the win, Chattanooga improves to 4-0 on the season. VCU falls to 2-2 after the loss. UTC is the lone team in NCAA Division I with a pair of road victories against the top 125 teams in the current KenPom.com ratings.
“I’ll be honest with you, I was really hoping it went in. Obviously, I wanted to win the game, but he [Malachi Smith] had a couple of those type of shots earlier and didn’t have that much luck with it,” said head coach Lamont Paris.
“I felt like it had a chance and he made it. It was over a long defender that played good defense on it. He made that shot. He made that play.”
A defensive battle broke out to begin the contest with both teams combining for just 12 (6-6) points over the first nine-plus minutes of the opening half. Tied 8-8 with 9:42 on the board, Chattanooga went on a 9-2 scoring run over the next five minutes with three-pointers coming from Malachi Smith and David Jean-Baptiste to build a 17-10 lead.
UTC’s lead never grew more than seven points down the stretch of the first half with the latest lead coming at 27-20 with just four seconds left. VCU ended the half with a banked in three-pointer as the time expired to send the two teams into the locker room separated by four, 27-23.
Much like the first half, both teams came out aggressive on the defensive side of the ball and saw. VCU pulled within three at 38-35 before UTC rattled off six-straight points, highlighted by buckets from De Sousa, Jean-Baptiste and Smith, to claim its largest lead of the game, 44-35, with 9:22 remaining.
The Rams came roaring back with a 9-0 run to tie things up at 44-44 and heighten the energy inside the Siegel Center. A back-and-forth battle saw the game tied at 52-52 with just 45 seconds left and the Mocs controlling an in-bound play under their basket.
Smith found a driving Silvio De Sousa for a go-ahead alley-oop on the in-bounds pass to put the visitors up 54-52. VCU nailed two free throws on the other end with 25 seconds, tying the game at 54-54 and allowing Chattanooga one final possession.
Smith would dribble the remaining seconds off the clock, drive right, and bury the game-winning jumper with 0.1 seconds left to give UTC a thrilling 56-54 victory.
Smith finished with a game-high 20 points and added five boards and two assists in the win. De Sousa picked up the squad’s first double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jean-Baptiste added 12 points for the winners.