CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- The Chattanooga Mocs (9-15/4-7) lost a gut-wrenching 71-68 decision to College of Charleston on Legends Weekend in McKenzie Arena. The loss came in spite of a phenomenal effort from a trio of UTC student-athletes.
Z. Mason (Nashville, Tenn.), Gee McGhee (Baton Rouge, La.) and Drazen Zlovaric (Novi Sad, Serbia) combined for 62 points. Mason tallied a career-high 27 to go with six rebounds. McGhee added 20 for his second-straight 20 or more effort, while also grabbing eight rebounds. Zlovaric chipped in 15 points on seven-of-11 shooting.
Trent Wiedeman came off the bench for 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for the Cougars. The backcourt tandem of Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt each scored 13 in support of the reserve big man.
Charleston built on its one-point halftime lead to open the second half. It took its largest lead of eight, 49-41, on a Stitt free throw with 16:30 to play. His layup with 14:33 remaining made it a seven-point game, 53-46.
The Mocs made a run. Ronrico White (Knoxville, Tenn.) got it started with a layup at 14:11. He then picked off a Stitt pass at midcourt and found McGhee on the left wing. The freshman nailed his third trey of the game to cut it to two, 53-51, at 13:58.
Another defensive stop led to a third straight UTC score. This time it was Mason hitting his career-best fourth triple of the contest at 12:55, putting his squad ahead 54-53.
Willis Hall scored on back-to-back trips for the Cougars to get the lead back, 57-54, at 11:45. But the Mocs would not fold. McGhee hit a free throw before Zlovaric took over. He followed a missed layup with a putback and old-fashioned three-point play to turn the margin back in UTC's favor, 58-57, at 11:11.
With the game tied 63-63 at 4:56, CofC scored on three of its next four possessions while UTC went cold. Wiedeman's layup with 1:56 to go made it a five-point game, 68-63. The Mocs closed to within two twice in the final minute but could not get the big shot when they needed it. White's desperation heave from well in the backcourt glanced off the rim at the buzzer.
The loss is a bitter pill when taking a cursory look at the stats. The six-of-16 (37.5%) effort at the free throw line ended up as the team's undoing. The Cougars on the other hand made 16 of 21 (76.2%) at the charity stripe.
Mason sparked the Chattanooga faithful early. He scored 17 points in the opening 20 minutes as the two teams sparred throughout the half. There were four ties and seven lead changes alone in the period. The Cougars built a seven-point margin on Lawrence's layup at 6:24, 29-22.
Down six, Mason scored on four of five possessions to tie the game at 33 with 2:31 until intermission. Zlovaric's jumper in the lane at 1:05 made it 35-33 UTC heading into the final minute. Stitt ended the scoring with a three-pointer with eight seconds left as White ended the first half the same as the game, with a deep three-pointer just off the mark.
White set a new career high with six assists on the evening. He also made three steals. His play at the point was pivotal in the squad setting a new season-low, for the third game in a row, for turnovers with seven.
Mason not only had a career high in points with 27 and three-pointers made with four, but he marked a couple more along the way. His 11 field goals made and 21 attempted are new bests, while 34 minutes played ties his high.
It was Legends Weekend at UTC with former stars of the men's and women's basketball teams honored at their respective games. The names are too numerous to mention, but the men who claimed 18 regular season and division Southern Conference titles, 10 SoCon Tournament crowns, made 10 NCAA Division Tourney appearances with a Sweet 16 along the way as well as the 1977 NCAA DII Championship and 1976 NCAA DII Runners-up were in attendance.
Tonight was the second of four in a row at home and six of the seven games in McKenzie Arena. Next up is Samford Monday at 7:30 p.m., after the Lady Mocs take on UNCG at 5:30. It's Blackout Night with all fans encouraged to wear black to the game.
Listen to the exciting play-by-play from "Voice of the Mocs" Jim Reynolds on ESPN 105.1 the Zone in Chattanooga, or world-wide on GoMocs.com. UTC celebrates Reynolds' 1,000 games behind the microphone on Thursday, February 21. MocsVision has the live video (PPV) and audio (free) action online. You can follow @GoMocsMBB on twitter for news, notes, stats and links to game notes, live stats and more.GoMocs.com is the official website of the Chattanooga Mocs. The Mocs can also be followed on their official Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ChattanoogaMocs, or on Twitter, www.twitter.com/GoMocs. Find out how to join the UTC Mocs Club and support more than 300 student-athletes by clicking here.