After a ferocious comeback effort over the final four minutes, the Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball suffered a 73-70 loss after Kobe Langley nailed a game-winning three with 3.0 seconds left to lift UNCG to victory in Southern Conference action on Thursday night inside McKenzie Arena.
Following the loss, Chattanooga falls to 22-6 overall this season and 12-3 in SoCon play. The Mocs remain two games clear of Furman in first place and can clinch the SoCon regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the tournament with a victory on Saturday. UNCG improves to 16-11 and pulls above .500 in the league at 8-7.
Down 12 with just over four minutes left, the Mocs rallied to tie the game 70-70 on a David Jean-Baptiste three with 32.5 seconds left which ignited the home crowd. UNCG’s Langley connected on the dagger on the ensuing possession at the top of the key to thwart the Mocs clinching abilities.
“We tried to put ourselves in position for a dramatic comeback, and we did. We just didn’t finish it off,” said head coach Lamont Paris following the game. “It was a classic case of too little too late. We turned it on too late.
“That one stung. Hopefully that will affect us in a positive way moving forward.”
UNCG used a fast start to jump ahead 9-2 in the game’s early moments before extending the seven-point lead to nine, 13-4, at the first media timeout (15:14). Chattanooga found its stroke from beyond the arc as David Jean-Baptiste, Darius Banks and Tada Stricklen (first career) all connected on triples to cut the deficit to four, 17-13 (10:50).
With UNCG up 21-15, Banks converted an and-one in the paint to pull the Mocs within a possession at 21-18 (7:39). Jean-Baptiste knocked down his second trey of the half to tie the game at 25-25 before the Spartans entered the break holding on to a 30-29 lead.
Chattanooga did not lead at all in the first half and suffered a 19-9 disadvantage on the glass. The Mocs shot 11-of-27 (40.7%) from the floor and saw a 4-of-11 (36.4%) effort from beyond the arc. Jean-Baptiste posted 12 points before the half while Banks added nine.
The Mocs took its first lead of the game on a pair of Malachi Smith free throws after forcing a turnover on the second half’s first possession. UNCG responded with six-straight points in the paint to regain a 40-37 lead at the 15:17 mark before scoring 10-straight points to build a double-digit lead at 50-39 (12:02).
UTC used an 8-2 run that was capped off by a Smith jumper to pull within five, 52-47 (9:23). After the Mocs pulled within a possession, 54-51 (7:53), UNCG sprinted its way to an 11-2 run to jump ahead 65-53 (4:10). The final four minutes of the game featured a frantic finish.
Chattanooga used a wild 17-5 run on the help of multiple turnovers and crucial threes down the stretch. The run was capped off by a Jean-Baptiste three off a Ledford assist with 32.5 seconds left to tie the game 70-70 and send McKenzie Arena into a frenzy.
The frenzy was quickly quieted as UNCG’s Kobe Langley nailed a game-winning three at the top of the key with just 3.0 seconds left to put the Spartans ahead 73-70 and ultimately send the dagger through the hosts. The Spartans shot a blistering 61.5% (16-of-26) from the floor in the second half and ended the game with a 55.1% (27-of-49) mark in total.
Chattanooga was handled largely on the rebounding side of things as the squad saw a 33-20 edge in favor of its opponent. UTC finished the contest 25-of-56 (44.6%) from the field and knocked down 36.4% (8-of-22) of its three-point attempts. Jean-Baptiste led all scorers with 24 points while Smith posted 16 and Banks chipped in with 11 and led the team in rebounding with four.