(gomocs.com) CHATTANOOGA—The Chattanooga Mocs used impeccable free throw shooting and a strong overall offensive performance to pull away from VMI in tonight’s 86-67 Southern Conference victory. Junior Ramon Vila’s 23 points led the way including while setting the tone in the first.
The Mocs trailed for a mere 17 seconds as Vila scored three straight early trips. He ended up making all six of his first-half shots to give his squad a lead they never relinquished.
Back-to-back threes from Maurice Commander and David Jean-Baptiste stemmed an early drive in the second half by the Keydets. That fight did not subside. They scored seven straight capped by Travis Evee’s three with 14:57 left. That cut the margin to six, 45-39. Vila answered with a slam and Commander took a charge at the other end. Jean-Baptiste hit another three, he was 3-3 on the night, to extend the lead back to 11 in short order.
That started a 21-5 run that culminated in two Stefan Kenić free throws as the lead reached 22, 66-44. It got to as high as 23 before settling with the 19-point cushion.
Vila was an uber-efficient 9-10 (90%) shooting and 5-6 (83.3%) at the FT line missing his career high of 24 points by one. Matt Ryan added 17 with 11 from Jean-Baptiste and 10 off the bench by Kenić. Kamdyn Curfman paced the Keydets with 13. Connor Arnold added 11, while Evee chipped in 10.
Chattanooga’s inside-out approach paid dividends.
“It’s huge,” Coach Lamont Paris opined post-game. “I think if someone had enough free time to go back and look at all our threes, I think the percentage of them when the ball goes inside and comes out, I would guess we shoot a significantly better percentage than the others.
“I tell these guys multiple times that it’s a luxury to have a guy like Ramon around the basket. One, he commands a lot of attention so you’ll have better situations for yourself. Two, he is a willing passer. Three, he is a capable passer. Not a lot of times you have all three of those things from one guy.”
The Mocs are on the road for two games before closing out the regular season with two of three in the Roundhouse. They traverse to Furman Saturday and The Citadel on Wednesday before coming home to host Mercer on the 22nd.
Chattanooga 16-10/7-6 | VMI 8-18/3-10
“Guys did a good job of finding him and looking for him. We ran a number of plays that were specifically designed for him. There were two options and we made a concerted effort getting it to him. He did a good job tonight.” – Coach Lamont Paris on Vila’s performance
“I didn’t know my shooting percentage was perfect until I missed. That’s something I don’t really care about. Today they went in and hopefully next game they do as well.” – Vila on his 9-10 shooting performance
“They better.” – Ryan in response to Vila
“First half, the game plan was keep throwing it inside. He wasn’t missing so we wanted to keep getting it inside and see what happens. He’s done a great job of knowing when a defender is in the vicinity and kicking it out. It’s been great for us, so we’ll try to continue that.” – Ryan on tonight’s game plan
3 NOTES TO KNOW
- 59th meeting with the Keydets but just the first this season. The Mocs have already completed four series before tackling VMI over a two-week period heading back to Lexington on Feb. 26. The good guys lead the series 45-14 over their visitors with a 23-4 mark in Gig City.
- 6 percent from the free throw tonight is the fourth-best mark of the DI era and tops since 96.6 percent (28-29) in a Dec. 15, 2013 loss at Northern Kentucky.
- The win paired with Mercer’s 70-68 triumph at Wofford and UNCG’s victory over Western Carolina muddles up the middle of the table. Wofford is currently fourth at 8-5, one game ahead of the fifth-place trio of Chattanooga, the Bears and Catamounts at 7-6.
3 STATS TO KNOW
- +27 scoring margin with Ramon Vila on the floor tonight.
- +14 rebound margin (39-25) is a season high against a DI opponent. The Mocs recorded a .833 (30-36) defensive rebound percentage allowing just six offensive boards.
- +1 in turnover margin (11-12) but held a 14-5 advantage in points off turnovers.