The Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team saw its 11-game road non-conference win streak snapped during a 76-68 loss to mid-major power Belmont on Wednesday night inside The Curb Event Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
Following the loss, Chattanooga falls to 9-2 on the year and sees a four-game win streak come to an end. Belmont improved its season mark to 9-3 after the win.
With Belmont and Chattanooga entering the game No. 7 and No. 8 in the latest Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 Poll, respectively, the game had all the makings of a quality small school showdown. The Bruins jumped out to a 16-point lead at half which ultimately buried the Mocs too deep to climb out of.
“It was two teams that have achieved at a high level so far this season, so all the things were there for it to be a really great game. We just didn’t play well and that was a big part of what happened at the end of the day,” said head coach Lamont Paris following the contest.
“There were a couple specific areas where they were ahead of us. It’s good to find out some things you have to learn to do better. There’s a lot. We wanted to win, but we just didn’t play well.”
Chattanooga opened the game shooting just 3-of-12 from the field which included a 0-for-5 mark from three to allow Belmont to grab an early 14-10 lead at the under 12 media (11:45). Big men Silvio De Sousa and Josh Ayeni would combine for 10 of the team’s first 12 points.
After a Malachi Smith three made it 20-15, Belmont extended the lead to 10, 25-15, with 7:19 left in the opening half after connecting on five of its first nine attempts from three. The Bruins continued to keep the foot on the gas and closed the first half with a 16-point lead, 39-23.
Belmont shot the ball at a highly efficient 64.0% (16-for-25) clip in the first 20 minutes and knocked down 46.2% (6-for-13) from three. UTC turned the ball over seven times and shot a lowly 29.6% (8-for-27) from the field including a 10.0% (1-for-10) mark from three.
The Mocs defense showed up in the second half and turned Belmont over seven times in the first nine minutes. Smith knocked down a triple to cap off an 8-0 run and cut the deficit to 51-43 with 11:00 remaining in the game. The two teams would trade buckets over the next few minutes before a KC Hankton three made it 64-57 with 5:17 on the clock.
Belmont answered the comeback threat with an immediate 7-0 run to build a 14-point lead, 71-57, with just under four minutes remaining in the game. Chattanooga couldn’t create a historic comeback down the stretch as the deficit would only reach as little as eight before the ultimate 76-68 final.
Smith led all scorers again with a game-high 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting (3-of-9, 3PT) while adding seven rebounds and two steals. De Sousa ended the game with 15 points and a game-high nine rebounds while fellow forward Ayeni ended with 10 points (4-of-6, FG) and led the team with a +8 +/- tally.
Chattanooga allowed a 59.6% (28-of-47) field goal percentage to Belmont which included a 40.0% (8-of-20) mark from three. The Mocs forced 18 turnovers opposed to committing 13 themselves but saw an even 19-19 split in points created off turnovers. UTC suffered a 38-28 disadvantage in the paint and saw six shots blocked during the loss.