(gomocs.com) MACON, Ga.—The Chattanooga Mocs led for a majority of the game but not when it mattered most in an 81-77 overtime loss at Mercer. The loss assured the Mocs of a spot in the 4-5 seeded matchup at the Ingles Southern Conference Championships presented by General Shale in 10 days.
David Jean-Baptiste (24) and Malachi Smith (22) combined for 46 points with Smith just missing a double-double grabbing nine rebounds. DJB added a team-high six assists. Kamar Robertson led all scorers with 28 off the bench for the Bears with Ross Cummings chipping in 14 points, eight boards and seven assists. It was points nine, 10 and 11 that hurt the Mocs on this night.
Jean-Baptiste set up heroics with this epic take through four of the Bears defenders.
After trading defensive stops, Mercer was forced to foul. Smith sank both ends of the one-and-bonus with 14.6 to go for the 68-65 advantage. The Mocs had two fouls to give before the Bears could be in the bonus. One came really quick, while the second stopped the clock at 7.5.
Mercer called timeout. Chattanooga made a plan. Sometimes the best laid plans.
“We were trying to foul,” Coach Lamont Paris said about the ensuing play. “We were trying to foul when there were seven point some seconds on the clock. We talked about playing in a way that there’s no way that we can (give up a three).
“That’s something that I have to go back; I evaluate every aspect of everything that we do, I’m very critical of myself, and I have to be able to communicate better. I don’t know what the words are, but we talked about playing in a way that a three could not get off … switching everything. And if it did come in inside the two that we would foul, or to anyone that we would foul immediately.”
The ball went to Felipe Haase who then moved it to Cummings to left of the key’s circle. The Bears senior had just enough room to release tying the game with 3.7 to play. The Mocs came out of a timeout and Smith ended up getting a runner off in the lane that just rolled out.
The two teams traded the lead in OT before Neftali Alvarez layup around the 46-second mark made it 77-75. The Mocs missed inside but Mercer through a length of the floor pass that was mishandled and stolen by Jean-Baptiste. He ended up with a turnover of his own on the next possession. Alvarez made four free throws down the stretch for the 81-77 victory.
The Mocs regular season finale was originally scheduled for Saturday night against VMI in the Roundhouse. That game has been cancelled due to COVID-related issues in the Keydets program. Next up for the Mocs is the Ingles Southern Conference Championships presented by General Shale.
Chattanooga 18-7/9-7 | Mercer 15-9/8-8
Chattanooga has secured a coveted top six seed for the tourney in Asheville. That means game one is Saturday, March 6. The Mocs are locked into the 4-5 game which is the second on that Saturday afternoon and it appears to be against ETSU. It would be the third time in four years the two rivals meet in the tournament quarterfinals.
There are still questions to be answered for seeds 1, 2 and 3 between the current lineup of Furman (.714), UNCG (.706) and Wofford (.688). The six seed will come down to VMI (.500) and Mercer (.500). If the Bears win at Western Carolina Saturday, it takes the six, while a loss likely sets up a rematch with the Catamounts in Friday’s opening round.
“Disappointing loss. Anytime you go on the road and get to an overtime and you don’t come out on top and your guys played hard, it’s just disappointing. To have to finish the season, the regular season, as it is, on a loss … there were a lot of things for us to play for to win.” – Coach Lamont Paris
“You want to go into the tournament kind of hot. With 11 days off, you want to build a goal for the win, but at the end of the day, it’s another season. Just how non-conference and conference are two different seasons, what happened in conference doesn’t really matter now, because anyone can be beat you on any given night. It’s win or go home. It doesn’t matter how many losses you have, you have you got to play.” – Malachi Smith
“The last couple of games I’ve been having self-doubt within myself. Coach Paris has done a great job keeping their confidence with me and telling me to stay aggressive and get to rim. I think these last couple games I’ve been shying away from it. I think today had to put my foot on the gas and keep being aggressive, put pressure on the defense and attack the rim. That’s one this I haven’t done the last couple of games. Today I came to be aggressive and then see what happens.” – David Jean-Baptiste