CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.---The Chattanooga Mocs (2-2) came back from a nine-point second half deficit but could not prevail against visiting Kennesaw State (2-4) Tuesday night. The Owls claimed the win in the final minute of the game.
Casey Jones (New Orleans, La.) hit the first of two free throws to tie the game at 69-all with 1:16 to play. The Owls’ Yonel Brown drove to the basket on the ensuing possession only to have Southern Conference blocks leader Z. Mason (Nashville, Tenn.) swat the shot and Jones corral the rebound.
Mason then turned the ball over near midcourt as Delbert Love started a two-on-one break for the Owls. Mason got a piece of Love’s layup attempt, but Willy Kouassi was there for the follow dunk and a two-point lead, 71-69, with a little more than 20 seconds to play.
The Mocs called timeout with 18.4 seconds left in the frontcourt to set up for the final possession. Gee McGhee (Baton Rouge, La.) drove to the basket and kicked it back to Eric Robertson (Huntsville, Ala.) at the top of the key. Robertson then drove but the Owls defense made a steal and Nigel Pruitt ended up at the line with 4.4 to go and the two-point lead.
He missed the one-on-one attempt, but the ball bounded off the rim and KSU was able to keep it alive for Pruitt to get the rebound. He sank two free throws with 2.3 to go for the final margin of 73-69.
“I think the credit for the comeback goes to our effort and fight to get back into the game,” Mason stated. “We out-rebounded them, which if you told me going into the game, I wouldn’t have believed you based on their size compared to ours. We crashed the glass hard and our press helped us slow them down and get a few turnovers. It helped us fight back.”
Jones notched career-highs with 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. McGhee recorded his first career double-double with 18 points and a new high of 10 boards. The Mocs held a 48-30 advantage on the glass for the game.
“We did a phenomenal job on the backboards,” Head Coach Will Wade added. “We worked our tails off rebounding the last couple of days. They battled, and we were all over the glass.”
Brown led the Owls with a game-high 21 points and five steals. Bernard Morena added 15 with 11 coming in an impressive first half. Pruitt chipped in 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Turnovers were the undoing for Chattanooga. It gave it back to the Owls 22 times on the night with the visitors getting 22 points off those miscues. KSU managed just nine offensive boards, but it had a slim 18-16 margin in second chance points.
Mason overcame just four minutes of first half playing time, due to foul trouble, to have 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Greg Pryor (Memphis, Tenn.) had 10 points and three assists, while Robertson collected a career-best seven rebounds.
KSU led by one at the break before taking control early in the second half. Its lead swelled to eight three times in the first eight minutes of the second period. Brown’s jumper at 9:41 made it a nine-point affair, 62-53.
But Chattanooga chipped away slowly, but surely. McGhee hit a three-pointer 74 seconds later to make it a five-point game, 64-59. His free throw at 5:19, cut it to two, 66-64.
Pruitt got the margin back to four before Mason took over. His tip dunk at 4:18 and then jump shot on the next possession tied it at 68-all with 3:23 remaining. Chattanooga held the Owls without a field goal for nearly five minutes and allowed a single point over 4:45, but it could not get take the lead before the Owls heroics over the final 20 seconds.
“It’s a disappointing outcome, but I thought our guys really battled,” Wade added. “It’s disappointing that we couldn’t come out on top. We just left some plays out there in the last four or five minutes of the game. Turnovers killed us tonight - some forced, some unforced.
“That was really the story of the game.”
The Mocs hit the road for the next five games. Next up is Nevada on Friday at 10 p.m., Eastern time. Links audio (free) and live stats can be accessed on GoMocs.com, and fans can follow @GoMocsMBB on twitter for live updates.GoMocs.com is the official website of the Chattanooga Mocs. The Mocs can also be followed on their official Facebook page or on Twitter. Find out how to join the UTC Mocs Club and support more than 300 student-athletes by clicking here.