Photo by Logan Stapleton
By Peyton Gray, Sports Editor-
The Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team defeated the Mercer Bears Wednesday in a historic 83-80 comeback at McKenzie Arena.
The slow start for the Mocs turned into a 19-point deficit with 2:25 to go in the first half–tying the record for the largest comeback in school history. This comeback was primarily due to Stefan Kenic scoring a career-high 27 points.
“They’re a stubborn group in the best way,” Lamont Paris said. “They’re a coachable group. It was a really resilient effort tonight.”
A Mercer three from Ross Cummings gave the Bears the largest lead of the night: 40-21. Malachi Smith answered this by connecting with a three that sparked a 10-0 run heading into halftime.
David Jean-Baptiste, who had 20 points in the game, added to the run with a floater with under a minute left in the half. A.J. Caldwell did his part with a steal and a layup. This brought the game to 40-31 at the half.
The Mocs began the second half strong–scoring a quick 10 points–with threes from Jean-Baptiste and Kenic. This shortened the Bears lead to 42-41. Mercer responded with a run of their own; they scored eight straight points. Cummings added his sixth three of the night and moved the game to 50-41.
Chattanooga refused to go away. Jamal Walker added two points to the board with 10 minutes left. This ended a Mocs 14-2 run. The Mocs were able to take the lead by eight, but the Bears wouldn’t give up. With 20 seconds left in the game, David Jean-Baptiste stole the ball at midcourt and finished with a layup.
The game took an interesting turn with seconds left. Mercer’s Felipe Haase was fouled from behind the three-point line. He connected on all three free throws that cut UTC’s lead to 81-80.
A UTC inbound pass to Darius Banks resulted in him being fouled. He took the game home by making both of his free throws, giving the Mocs an 83-80 victory. Along with Kenic and Jean-Baptiste, other scorers for the Mocs included Malachi Smith (14) and Darius Banks (10) in his debut in a Chattanooga uniform.
This game tied the record for the largest comeback in school history. The last time this happened was on the road at Mississippi State in 1985.
“I think it’s an amazing win because we were down 19 and to be able to come back and win, it means you didn’t give up,” Kenic said. “That’s why I’m always proud of these guys. We never give up, and we won the game.”