CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- Z. Mason (Nashville, Tenn.) powered the Chattanooga Mocs (5-8) to the Dr Pepper Classic Championship with a 76-69 win over Utah Valley (7-9) Saturday evening. Mason, who earned tourney MVP honors, posted a career-high 26 points while tying his high of 13 rebounds.
The UTC win overshadowed one of the great individual performances in McKenzie Arena history. UVU's Holton Hunsaker scored 37 points hitting eight three-pointers in a duel with Mason and the Mocs. Hunsaker's 37 are the most by an opponent in the Roundhouse since Tennessee State's Darryl Brooks' 42 on December 8, 1989, a 102-98 TSU win.
It was a nip-and-tuck battle throughout. The Mocs' largest lead was seven, while their biggest deficit was four. After Alex Bran (Memphis, Tenn.) put UTC up 47-45 with 13 minutes remaining, the Wolverines struck. Hunsaker hit a three followed by an Alfonzo Hubbard steal and layup to flip the scoreboard to a 50-47 UVU advantage.
Mason scored two layups and on a fall-away jumper to put the Mocs back up one, 53-52 with 9:06 to go. Nick Thompson tied it up with a free throw nearly a minute later before Mason made it a two-point game with another mid-range jump shot with just over eight minutes remaining.
Hunsaker answered with a three-pointer a minute later swaying the margin back in front by one. That was matched just 14 seconds later by Ronrico White (Knoxville, Tenn.) for the Mocs. Mason scored on UTC's next possession thanks to Sam Watson's (Knoxville, Tenn.) work on the offensive boards to make it a four-point game again.
White started and ended a 10-2 Chattanooga run with three-pointers to put his squad up 65-58 with a little more than five minutes to play. Utah Valley would not go away. The Wolverines closed to within three, 67-64, on Taylor Brown's trey, but the Mocs made it count at the free throw line. UTC hit nine of 12 in the final two minutes while playing tight defense to claim the win.
Gee McGhee (Baton Rouge, La.) chipped in 11 points and a career-best nine rebounds for the Mocs. He made nine of 12 from the charity stripe. White also scored 11 with three assists.
Hubbard added 12 points for the Wolverines. Ben Aird matched Mason for game-high honors on the boards with 13 to go with four assists, four blocks and three steals.
The Mocs opened the game strong leading by five three different times early in the game. It was 16-11 on a Mason layup at 11:36 when UVU made its move. The Wolverines went on a 9-0 run to take a 20-16 lead at 8:37 on a Hubbard layup.
UTC turned the tables with an 8-0 run of its own for a seven-point lead, 30-23, on a layup by Drazen Zlovaric (Novi Sad, Serbia). Utah Valley snapped out of a six-and-a-half-minute stretch without a field goal by scoring the last four points, all by Hunsaker, to send the game into intermission with the Mocs up three, 30-27.
High Point (5-7) claimed a 76-74 win in the consolation game over Austin Peay (4-10). John Brown led the Panthers with 25 points and six rebounds, while Allan Chaney added 10 points and five boards off the bench. The Govs were paced by Anthony Campbell's 23 points and nine rebounds. Will Triggs (14), Chris Horton (13) and Travis Betran (10) also scored in double digits for Austin Peay.
Mason as MVP was joined on the All-Tournament Team by White. Hunsaker and Nick Thompson made it from UVU. Brown (High Point) and Campbell (Austin Peay) rounded out the squad.
It was the 15th Chattanooga Dr Pepper Classic crown in 23 years of the event. It's also the fourth time in five years John Shulman's charges kept the trophy at home.
The Mocs are off until next year traveling to Atlanta to square off with Georgia Tech on Wednesday, January 2. Game time is slated for 7 p.m., and it will air on ESPN3 online.
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