The Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team, who once led by as many as 15 in the second half, survived a furious comeback effort to come away with its 11th-straight non-conference road win behind a 78-73 decision over UNC Asheville inside Kimmel Arena in Asheville, North Carolina on Wednesday night.
Chattanooga (8-1) now moves to 10-0 all-time against UNC Asheville and completes the home-and-home series sweep. The victory also makes UTC one of only two NCAA Division I teams this season with five true road wins (Monmouth). The Bulldogs (5-4) saw its three-game winning streak come to an end.
“It’s another road win. That’s one of the hardest things to do in sports, win a game on the road in men’s college basketball,” said head coach Lamont Paris.
“We’ll take it. We had players that didn’t have their best. It wasn’t just shot making, it was overall. We found enough. They got on a run in the second half and we have to figure out what we’re doing defensively. I don’t know what it is, but we have to figure it out.”
Asheville controlled an early 10-9 lead following a Drew Pember and-one conversion at the first media timeout (13:20). Chattanooga’s AJ Caldwell responded with his second three in the early going to put the visitors up 12-10 on the ensuing possession.
The Mocs jumped out to a 19-12 lead after rolling on a 7-2 run following that point. Asheville cut their deficit to three at 21-18 before Caldwell continued his hot shooting with two more deep balls a few minutes later to put UTC ahead 29-20 with 6:06 left in the half.
After going up 34-24, it was a familiar face again who allowed the Chattanooga lead to grow. Caldwell knocked down his fifth three in as many attempts to push the Mocs ahead 37-24 with 3:04 on the board. The halftime score settled at 39-26 with the help of a 57.1% (16-of-28) field goal percentage and a 60.0% (6-for-10) tally from three-point land.
Asheville cut the 13-point deficit at half to single digits, 42-33, after scoring seven of the half’s first 10 points. The two teams hovered around a seven-to-nine point differential over the next few minutes before Chattanooga extended out to a 15 point lead, 58-43, on a Malachi Smith three pointer with 9:59 left to go in the game.
The lead would immediately shrink after Asheville’s Taijon Jones connected on four-straight threes over a two-plus minute stretch to cut the UTC lead to three, 66-63 with 5:33 on the board. It was Jones again from deep, on his fifth-straight successful three-point attempt, that gave the Bulldogs a brief 69-68 lead at the 3:44 mark.
Smith put the Mocs back in front 70-69 (3:19) with a floater in the paint before a De Sousa free throw and layup and a pair of Darius Banks free throws added to the edge, 74-69 (1:13). Asheville climbed within one possession on a Pember tip-tin with four seconds left, but two Smith knock downs from the charity stripe sealed a 78-73 win.
Smith finished with his third-straight 25+ scoring game with a game-high 28 points on an efficient nine-of-12 shooting from the floor while adding another game-high in boards with eight. Caldwell finished with a season-high 15 points on five-of-five shooting from deep in addition to double-digit scoring performances from Silvio De Sousa (14) and Avery Diggs (11).