The No. 1 seeded Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team cruised to a dominating 79-56 victory over No. 4 Wofford to advance to the 2022 Ingles Southern Conference Championships title game on Sunday afternoon inside the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville, North Carolina.
Following the win, Chattanooga improves to 26-7 overall and earns a spot in the SoCon title game for the first time since 2016 and 19th overall in program history. Chattanooga will face No. 2 Furman in tomorrow’s championship game at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Wofford fell to 19-13 overall following the defeat.
Chattanooga grabbed a quick two-point lead just 1:03 into the game and never gave it up. The Mocs shot a blistering 61.5% (16-of-26) from the floor in the first half and led by as much as 26 in the later parts of the second. The effort was more than complete on both sides of the ball.
“Not a lot I can say about the performance that these guys put on today defensively especially coming out of the gates,” said head coach Lamont Paris.
“I just can’t say enough about the juice we had in the first half defensively. And we carried that in to the second half. Really locked into what we were trying to accomplish. We were very competitive defensively and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Chattanooga raced out to a 12-5 lead at the 14:24 mark of the opening half after Malachi Smith and Darius Banks each chipped in with triples on the offensive end. Wofford responded with five-straight points before David Jean-Baptiste concerted an and-one opportunity to put UTC ahead 15-10 (12:51).
A physical battle broke out over the next five-plus minutes as Chattanooga continued to lead, 19-14 (7:56), after back-and-forth action on both sides of the ball. The Mocs put together an 8-0 run over the stretch of two minutes to extend out to a 29-17 lead with 4:15 remaining in the half.
UTC continued to dominate on the defensive end which allowed for the offense to capitalize on numerous opportunities. The Mocs held Wofford to just five points over the final 6:42 of the half while forcing four turnovers during that span.
Offensively, Chattanooga connected on its final six shot attempts of the half from the floor and saw the outburst capped off with a Smith three-ball right before the buzzer. UTC held a 38-20 lead at the break after finishing the half shooting 61.5% (16-of-26) from the field while limiting Wofford to a 36.4% (8-of-22) tally. UTC scored 11 points off eight Terrier turnovers.
It was a fast start to the second half as the two teams combined to make seven of the first eight field goal attempts. Jean-Baptiste knocked down his first three of the game at the 15:59 mark before Wofford nailed a layup on ensuing possession to make it 47-30 (15:42) in favor of Chattanooga.
The Mocs continued to keep separation from the Terriers on the help of a 70.0% (7-of-10) start from the floor and led 57-39 with 11:05 remaining in the contest. Smith buried a three on a second-chance rebound from Silvio De Sousa to put UTC ahead 62-41 (9:15) before an additional 7-2 spurt extended the lead to 69-43 (6:40).
Chattanooga capped off the dominating wire-to-wire performance by leading as much as 26 before eventually finishing off a 79-55 victory. The Mocs shot 58.3% (28-of-48) from the field while out-scoring Wofford by a 20-7 margin in points off turnovers and out-rebounding them by a 32-20 spread.
UTC featured four double-digit scorers with Smith leading all scorers with 25 points and completed the double-double by tying a game-high with 10 rebounds. Banks (17), Jean-Baptiste (14) and De Sousa (12) joined Smith in reaching double figures while the latter added in five boards.