CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Chattanooga dominated the paint and the glass and shot a staggering 85.7 percent from the floor in the second half Friday, beginning its Southern Conference Men's Basketball Championship title defense with an 82-62 win over Georgia Southern in the first round of the tournament at Bojangles' Coliseum.
Chattanooga (15-17), the third seed in the SoCon's North Division, held a 49-20 rebounding advantage and scored 54 points in the paint to just 26 for the Eagles (9-23). UTC was 18-for-21 from the floor in the second stanza and finished the game a season-best 66.7 percent from the field (34-for-51).
Ridge McKeither led the Mocs with a game-high 19 points and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. Chris Early had a double-double with 10 points and career-high 12 boards, while Josh Odem finished with 13 points.
Rory Spencer's 15 points paced Georgia Southern, the South Division's sixth seed. Antonio Hanson and Willie Powers had 12 each for the Eagles. Spencer's seven rebounds paced GSU, which did not see another player finish with more than two.
Chattanooga led 40-29 at halftime and never saw its lead dip below 13 after the break. The Mocs opened the second half on a 23-6 run, seeing their lead swell to 28 at 63-35 with 12:04 to play.
GSU would cut it to 16 points at 75-59 on Ben Drayton's jumper with 3:52 to play, but the comeback would go no further.
Georgia Southern's Colby Wohlleb drained back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Eagles an early 6-0 lead, but Chattanooga rattled off a 10-0 run, capped by consecutive buckets from DeAntre Jefferson.
A Drayton three finally snapped the Eagles' 5-minute, 14-second scoring drought, and the teams would find themselves tied at 18 with 8:48 to go in the first.
The Mocs would take over from there, as they turned in a quick 13-0 spurt over the next 3:14 to grab control. McKeither had seven points in the run.
Georgia Southern would whittle the lead back down to seven at 36-29 on a Tyler Troupe layup with 2:32 left in the first, but Sam Watson had a pair of baskets before the break to put Chattanooga up by double digits to stay.
The Mocs advance to face College of Charleston, the No. 2 seed from the South Division, Saturday at approximately 9:30 p.m.
Catch all of the Mocs' action on ESPN Radio 105.1 FM with the Voice of the Mocs, Jim Reynolds, providing play-by-play in his 30th season behind the microphone. Live stats, live video (selected games) and audio are also available on GoMocs.com.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.