Darius Banks scored the team’s final eight points down the stretch and accounted for a game-high 26 points to help lead the Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team to a crucial 64-58 victory on the road over Furman in Southern Conference action on Saturday afternoon inside Timmons Arena.
Following the win, Chattanooga improves to 22-5 overall and is now three games clear atop the SoCon standings at 12-2. Furman falls to 17-10 and 9-5 inside league play. UTC is the fourth team in the country to reach 22 wins and can now seek at least a share of the regular season conference title with a win at home on Thursday (vs. UNCG).
Chattanooga could not connect on a three-point attempt (0-of-9) in the opening half and trailed by seven, 27-20, at the break. A strong effort on both sides of the ball allowed the Mocs to improve to 8-2 this season when trailing at the break.
“How about that? How about that for a college basketball game? Seriously. To whoever got to watch it, and for the people who paid to be here and watch that? They got every penny out of that,” said head coach Lamont Paris following the game.
“I can’t say enough about our guys. Grind, grind, grind, things aren’t happening, and just sticking to it and keeping your head where it needs to be. We got more aggressive and loosened things up [in the second half], opened the floor more.
“I just can’t say enough about that performance.”
Furman opened the game with a fast start on the offensive side of things and connected on five of its first seven shot attempts to build an 11-6 lead at the first media timeout (15:13). The Paladins would extend the five-point advantage to seven at the next media timeout, 15-8, with 11:24 left in the opening half.
As both teams endured a scoring drought of over three minutes, Furman carried a 17-10 lead with 7:51 on the board. Malachi Smith ended the drought and continued to provide the offense for the Mocs as UTC suffered a 0-of-7 start from three, resulting in a 22-16 Furman advantage with 3:17 on the board.
David Jean-Baptiste couldn’t convert on a fast break layup before the halftime buzzer as the Paladins took a 27-20 advantage into the break. Chattanooga ended the half shooting just 37.0% (10-of-27) including a 0-of-9 tally from three. Smith accounted for half the team’s points with 10.
The Mocs finally connected on a pair of back-to-back threes, one from Smith and the other from Darius Banks, to cap off a 12-1 run that brought the game to a 37-37 tie with 11:16 remaining in the contest. Chattanooga claimed its first lead of the game on a Josh Ayeni and-one opportunity, 44-41 at the 7:18 mark.
The Mocs extended the lead to five after Jean-Baptiste hit his first triple of the game before Banks finished in the paint to put UTC ahead 54-49 with 3:49 left in the game. The lead grew to seven at 58-51 (2:36) on a Banks bucket before Furman rallied back to cut its deficit to two, 58-56 (1:38).
Banks sealed the deal with four free throws down the stretch as he accounted for the team’s final eight points of the game to secure a huge 64-58 road victory. Banks scored a game-high 26 points with 22 coming in the second half and also tied a team-high with nine rebounds. Smith flirted with a triple-double after ending with 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Chattanooga shook off a 0-of-13 start from three to finish the game 27-of-58 (48.6%) from the field in total which included a timely 17-of-31 (54.8%) performance from the floor in the second half. The Mocs limited the Paladins to a lowly 4-of-23 (17.4%) mark from beyond the arc in the contest to hold its third-straight opponent under 20.0%