CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.---The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team ended its season Saturday night with a 61-52 loss to Furman in the Southern Conference Tournament Quarterfinals. The loss ends Chattanooga's year at 16-16, while Furman improved to 22-9 awaiting the winner of the nightcap between Elon and College of Charleston.
The Mocs were led by Keegan Bell (Hazel Green, Ala.) with 20 points. Omar Wattad (Johnson City, Tenn.) and Ricky Taylor (Brownsville, Tenn.) each had 12 as the starting guard trio scored 44 of UTC's 52 points.
Furman guard Jordan Miller had 21 points to pace the Paladins. Amu Saaka added 15 points, 10 rebounds and three steals, while Darryl Evans chipped in 14 points.
Trailing by 10, 38-28, on a Miller three-pointer at 16:55, the Mocs made a mini-run. They scored seven unanswered points to close within three, 38-35, on Wattad's trey at 13:35. As he did most of the night, Miller had an answer with a three-pointer to stop the run and give his teammates some breathing room.
But Chattanooga was not done. Two Bell free throws at 8:47 made it a three-point game again, 43-40. Furman responded with a 10-0 run over the next 4:50 to jump back up by 13, 53-40, taking control of the game. The Mocs got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
It was a cold shooting night with UTC shooting a meager 31.4 percent (16-51) including 25.0 percent (5-20) from beyond the arc. Most frustrating was the 51.7 percent (15-29) effort from the free throw line. At one point in the second half, the Mocs made just two of eight during a span where they held the Paladins without a field goal for four-plus minutes.
Furman started the game on a 13-0 run over the first five-plus minutes of play. Saaka capped it with a three-pointer and it looked like an easy night for the Paladins. In the Mocs' first eight possessions, they missed all five shot attempts and had four turnovers.
Chattanooga battled back slowly. Down 17-6, a Wattad three-pointer sparked seven unanswered points to close with four, 17-13. The Mocs held Furman without a field goal for more than four minutes.
Two DeAntre Jefferson (Bloomington, Ill.) free throws at 4:35 got UTC to just two down, 22-20, before Furman pushed out to a 30-24 halftime cushion. The Mocs managed just one field goal over the final three minutes of the half.
Chattanooga ends its season at 16-16, but also as co-champions of SoCon North Division. The title is the 18th regular season crown in the 34 years UTC has been in the league and 28th overall (10 tourneys). The Mocs are the only program to win three regular-season crowns in the last four years.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.