Moctoberfest Day 23: Mocs Run to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1997

Moctoberfest is a month-long celebration of Chattanooga Mocs men's basketball. It includes historical moments, social media interactions and introduction to UTC's freshmen among the myriad of video tributes and stories.

Day 24 focuses on that magical NCAA Tourney Run of 1997 as the Mocs magic extended to the Sweet 16. There were not many around the nation who filled out their brackets with the Chattanooga Mocs going to the Sweet 16, but Mocs Madness proved that those who had long runs for Georgia or Illinois would have theirs turned upside down.

First up was No. 17 Georgia in Charlotte, N.C. The Bulldogs came into the contest at 24-8 and was award the three seed in the Southeast Regional. UGA was coming off a runner-up finish in the SEC Tourney. The Mocs were unimpressed.

Johnny Taylor and company scored the first 15 points of the game with his three-point play on slam over Lorenzo Hall staking UTC to a 15-0 advantage just three minutes into the game. The lead reached 20 as Willie Young buried a three from way downtown, 34-14, with 8:53 to go in the half. Georgia regrouped and limped into the locker room down 15, 46-31, at intermission.

It took a while, but Tubby Smith's smelling salts worked late in the second half. UGA closed to within four, 65-61, at 4:12 for the first time since Wes Moore's three-pointer dropped a little more than a minute into the game to put the Mocs up 5-0. The lead got down to one before Young and Marquis Collier closed out the win in the final minute. Game Stats

No. 19 Illinois was next for Chattanooga and it was a much tighter game at the start. The Mocs led by five early but trailed by six going into the final minute of the first half. Collier and Isaac Conner combined for five points in the last 40 seconds to make it a one-point game at the break.

The Illini led by four with 7:48 left in the game when UTC took over. Mack McCarthy's charges closed the game with a 20-4 run for a 12-point win, 75-63. The free throw line was kind as the Mocs hit nine of 10 from the charity stripe in the final minutes. Game Stats

The Sweet 16 was a short jaunt down I-59 to the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center for a matchup with 10-seed Providence.  The Friars upset Marquette and Duke en route to its date with the Mocs.

Providence was the first team to get a strong jump out of the gate on the Mocs. It led by seven a couple of times in the first half before taking that margin, 31-24, into halftime.

Austin Croshere made it a 10-point game with a three-pointer to start the second half. It was a seven-point game, 42-35, when the Mocs got hot. Taylor's layup capped a 9-0 run to put UTC up two, 44-42, with 11:33 to go.

The lead see-sawed from there until a 13-2 spurt gave the Friars another 10-point lead, 61-51, at 5:41. It swelled to 13, 66-53, on Ruben Garces' dunk inside two minutes. The Mocs feverishly worked get back into the game but would get no closer than five. Game Stats

It was a special week for Chattanooga - the team, school and community. The Mocs graced the cover of local, regional and national outlets and were front and center throughout. March Madness became Mocs Madness and the program added a couple of more pages to its storied history.

 - UTC was joined on the No. 14 line that season by Butler, Old Dominion and St. Mary's...Mocs were the only 14 to advance...was not the biggest first round upset as 1997 is the year Coppin State beat South Carolina 78-65 in the East...Texas and Providence, both 10 seeds, were the only other double upsets to advance to Sweet 16.
 - Mocs are one of two No. 14 seeds to reach Sweet 16 (Cleveland State - 1986) that time, it was just the fifth time a 14th-seed topple a three.
 - Chattanooga's 12-point win over the Illini was the 6th largest margin of victory in the 16 round two matchups...Utah's 19-point triumph over Charlotte, (77-58) and Minnesota's 76-57 win over Temple were first.
 - UTC held the Illini to just one field goal over the final 10 minutes...last dozen possessions: eight missed shots, five turnovers and a meaningless three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining.
 - The Mocs won 19 of last 23 games of the season.
 - Willie Young (Norfolk, Va.) led UTC with 39 points in the two wins...24 came against the Bulldogs and 14 vs. Illinois.
 - Johnny Taylor (Chattanooga, Tenn.) had the most for all three games combined averaging 17.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest.

Chattanooga opens the season Monday, November 12, against Tennessee Temple in McKenzie Arena at 7 p.m. Season tickets for a school-record 18-game home slate are available. Call 266-MOCS (6627), go online here at or stop by the Gate One McKenzie Arena Ticket Office. Single-game tickets are also on sale now. is the official website of the Chattanooga Mocs.  The Mocs can also be followed on their official Facebook page (ChattanoogaMocs), or on Twitter (@GoMocsMBB & @GoMocs).

Find out how to join the UTC Mocs Club and support more than 300 student-athletes by clicking here.

1 - First NCAA DI Game
2 - Walter "Moose" McGary
3 - Stephen McDowell
4 - 1980 Recruiting Class
5 - Gerald Wilkins 4-point Play
6 - Social Media Factoid: UTC's 10 NCAA appearances are the most in the SoCon since joining the league in 1977-78. Leaders: Chattanooga 10, Davidson 7, ETSU 6, Marshall 3, App State 2, Furman 2, Wofford 2, Western Carolina 1, UNCG 1 and College of Charleston 1. Sources: &
7 - LeVert Threats to Keith Nelson Buzzer-Beater
8 - 1st NCAA Tournament Win
9 - Social Media Factoid: Today's Moctoberfest Factoid is in honor of tomorrow's 30 minutes or less ticket promotion. Derrick Kirce holds the UTC record for career 30-point games with 5 in his 2 seasons (1990-91). He scored 1,113 points which is a school record for a two-year player averaging 19.5 points per contest, another all-time leading mark. Chad Copeland (1993-94) is the only Moc with back-to-back 30-pt games. He scored 30 in a home win over Southern Miss on Jan. 2, 1994 and followed with 33 keying a one-point road win three nights later at Furman. Sources: &
10 - Drazen Zlovaric  Makes ESPN Top 10 Plays
11 - TRIVIA GIVEAWAY: Who led the Mocs in scoring in the two 1997 NCAA Tournament wins over Georgia and Illinois? Answer: Willie Young with 39 (24 vs. UGa/15 vs. Illini).
12 - Meet Gee McGhee
13 - Ty Patterson Beats Shot Clock in 2009 SoCon Championship Game
14 - Meet Alex Bran
15 - Meet Eric Robertson
16 - 1985 NIT Quarterfinalists
17 - Deal's Pass to Wilkins in 1985 NIT at Lamar
18 - TRIVIA GIVEAWAY: What Southern Conference opponent have the Mocs played the most in their history? Answer: Samford, 83 games (48-35). Western Carolina is second with 78 followed by Appalachian State (72) and The Citadel (70). The Catamounts are the most frequent SoCon regular season opponent with 64 games with UTC holding a 46-18 record in those league contests.
19 - Dontay Hampton Coast to Coast Game Winner
20 - Social Media Factoid: Today's Moctoberfest Factoid keys on the long list of professional players that Chattanooga has produced over the years. There are currently 16 former Mocs active in professional leagues all over the globe. Click here for a list of NBA Draft Picks and recent UTC players in the pros. Sources: &
21 - Chris Mims Game Winner in 1997 SoCon Championship
22 - Meet Farad Cobb
23 - Remembering the NCAA Sweet 16 Team
24 - Meet Casey Jones
26 - Mocs Top Moments
27 - 2009 Tourney Run Nets New Fanatic
28 - Championship Tradition
29 - Mocs Top Moments
31 - Mocs Top Moments
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