By Kaylene Chadwell, Chattanooga, TN—The Mocs basketball team finished their season with splitting two road games.
Chattanooga needed to win both games to have a chance of getting a buy at the Southern Conference Championships.
“A must win on the road, those aren’t easy,” head coach John Shulman said.
After gaining momentum from a win against Elon, Chattanooga traveled to Cullowhee, N.C., to take on Western Carolina. UTC lost to Western earlier in the season.
The Mocs triumphed over the Catamounts 81-72.
UTC’s Zaccheus Mason, a junior from Nashville, played a pivotal role by scoring 25 points and snatching a career-high 14 rebounds. Ronrico White, a sophomore from Knoxville, clinched 14 points. Gee McGhee, a freshman from Baton Rouge, La., contributed 12 points, four steals, three rebounds, and three assists.
The Mocs jumped to a quick 12-0 lead. Western Carolina did not get on the board until six minutes into the game. Mason scored 18 of his 25 points in the first 20 minutes.
At halftime, Chattanooga had a 14-point lead, 43-29.
The Catamounts fought back in the second half. With 6:26 left, the Mocs dropped to a three-point lead, 62-59. A Western Carolina player made a two-point game twice in their next three possessions.
McGhee forced a basket at 4:36 to make the score 68-64. White clinched two free throws, increasing the Mocs to a six-point lead. Western turned the ball over. Casey Jones, a freshman from New Orleans, La., advanced the lead by two points to 72-64 with 2:47 left.
White made a three-pointer at the 47 seconds mark, giving the Mocs a five-point lead. Chattanooga got the ball back at 35.5. Mason made a basket and free throw, raising the lead to 80-72. White scored the last point with a free throw.
The Mocs shot 54.2 percent from the field, while Western Carolina shot 38.3 percent.
Chattanooga then visited Boone, N.C., to take on Appalachian State Saturday. The Mocs beat App State earlier in the season. But this time around, the Mountaineers devastated the Mocs 86-60.
Jones claimed a career-high 16-points. White contributed 10 points.
App State dashed to an early lead. At halftime, the Mountaineers led the Mocs 55-30. In the second half, UTC was never able to close the gap.
Appalachian State snagged the No. 4 seed and a buy in the Southern Conference Championship by beating the Mocs.
The Mocs wrapped up their season with a 13-18 overall record and 8-10 Southern Conference record.
Chattanooga turns their focus to the SoCon Championships now. “We have a lot of young guys,” Zaccheus Mason said. “It will be a good experience for them.”
The Mocs head into the tournament as the No. 7 seed.
“Let’s say a team that’s used to making shots,” Shulman said. “I believe in tournament play there is so much pressure you don’t make shots. We are very used to not making shots, so I think we can handle not making shots. I think we can handle the pressure.”
The Southern Conference Championships begin March 8 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C., the Mocs are scheduled to face UNCG in the opening round at 6 p.m. Friday.