(gomos.com) COOKEVILLE—The Chattanooga Mocs closed the second half strong in a 62-54 road win at Tennessee Tech. They utilized a 14-2 run to move to 2-0 on the season, and it all started with a spark from Lamont Paris.
Tech took a 52-48 lead with 4:57 on the two Keishawn Davidson free throws from a technical foul called on the Mocs head coach. The next Golden Eagles points came with 10 seconds to play. The Mocs reeled off nine straight stops.
“It was very important,” sophomore guard Malachi Smith shared when asked about the team coming together. “Sometimes shots aren’t being made and that’s not something you can control. You can only control things on the defensive end, and I think after coach’s technical, we huddled up, and we knew it was going to take a full team effort to get the stops to finish the game out.”
Smith kick-started the run with an and-one take to the basket at 4:14. His two free throws 17 seconds later gave his squad the lead for good, 53-52. That began a stretch of four scores in five trips that turned into a prolonged 14-2 spurt to the buzzer.
Trey Doomes jumper made it three-point lead while Stefan Kenić continued the run with a jumper at 2:41. All the final points came at the line as the Mocs pulled away to the seemingly easy victory. It was anything but as the frigid air outside made its way to the visitors’ offense.
“There’s always lessons that you’d like to learn,” Paris shared on a postgame zoom press conference outside the Mocs locker room. “If you can’t win a game by 20, then the next best thing is to have a game like this. Where you must inbound the ball against pressure, where you must get a stop when you need it, where you must make big free throws or it’s going to be nip-and-tuck down the stretch.
“I thought it was good that we could learn a lesson in a game where we still came out with a win.”
Chattanooga shot just 30.8 (20-65) percent from the field. That’s the second-lowest shooting percentage in school history in a win behind 30.4 percent (21-69) in a 67-51 December 1998 triumph over West Virginia State.
“We weren’t shooting too well all game and at the end, we needed some aggressive plays going to the rim and that’s what I like to do,” Doomes noted. “I knew we weren’t getting the three going much in the first half, so I wanted to try and bring a spark to the team.
“It was very important for me to keep everyone together during the game and make sure we were making the right plays down the stretch and that’s what we were able to do.”
Smith led the way with 15 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. He’s the only Moc to start a season with back-to-back double-doubles in the DI era after an 18-point, 10-rebound performance in the opening win over Lander. He also registered a career-best five steals.
David Jean-Baptiste added 12 points, five rebounds and four steals. Kenić chipped in 11 points and seven boards. Davidson led TTU with 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
The Mocs stay on the road this weekend heading to Murfreesboro Sunday. Links for video, audio and live stats for the Middle Tennessee game will be on the men’s basketball schedule page.