CHARLESTON, S.C. -- It's a rising tide for the Mocs as they leave the Lowcountry.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team played its best game of the season but fell 87-85 in double overtime at the College of Charleston on Saturday.
The Mocs played with the effort and intensity that held them in a close game at Butler but disappeared for two weeks, resulting in lethargic losses to Kennesaw State, Gardner-Webb and Georgia Southern.
"Chattanooga is back," said senior point guard Keegan Bell, who had a triple-double of 12 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Southern Conference game. "I don't know where we went -- a black hole or something. Being back is playing with our heart."
Still, as coach John Shulman pointed out, a loss is a loss and months from now it will appear to be a similar game to Thursday, when UTC (2-6, 0-2) fell behind 16 points at Georgia Southern, which was picked fifth of six teams in its division.
The Cougars rose to 7-1 and 2-0 as both teams head into finals week.
"Back in Chattanooga, at this moment, we're a bunch of losers," Shulman said. "I thought our team played like a bunch of winners.
"This is not the best place in the world to get healthy. We deserved to win the game. We played hard enough. We earned it. Now do we keep doing what we did tonight?"
And that's communicating on defense, executing "Fire" when the opponent sends the ball into the post, being in the right place on set plays, limiting offensive rebounds and forcing tough shots.
The Cougars shot 38.2 percent from the floor and 27.9 percent on their 43 long-range attempts.
"I would be run out of Chattanooga if our team shot 43 3s," Shulman said. "We did a great job of building that wall. We deserved to win the game. We should have. That's sports. That's athletics. Makes me sick."
Andrew Lawrence scored 25 points -- the last seven Charleston points in regulation -- including a layup with 1.2 ticks to play. Charleston freshman Anthony Stitt scored 20 points.
Trent Wiedeman scored 15 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for the Cougars.
Wiedeman felt something Saturday that he didn't see during his study of the Mocs.
"They played a lot harder," Wiedeman said. "They definitely came to play and they really wanted to beat us. They played really hard. There wasn't an extreme difference, but definitely there was a difference."
UTC senior Chris Early scored 18 points and had eight rebounds. Ricky Taylor scored 17 points, Dontay Hampton had 12, and Ronrico White scored 11 in the gym where his older brother starred as a point guard.
"They give us a spark," Shulman said. "They guard, they do what they're supposed to do."
The Mocs led 26-21 at halftime, their first halftime lead over a Division I team since Feb. 21.
They led 67-63 with 12.1 seconds left after two free throws by Taylor. Then Lawrence hit a 3 with 6.9 seconds to go. Bell hit the first of two free throws for a 68-66 lead with seven seconds left. But Lawrence dribbled his way down the court and hit a layup over Taylor's outstretched arm.
UTC led 72-68 early in the first overtime before Charleston tied it with more than two minutes to play, after which neither team scored.
In the second overtime, Charleston pulled ahead by four on a trey by Jordan Scott. Taylor hit a difficult 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds to go and Shulman argued for a pushing foul but that fell on deaf ears. Stitt hit one free throw, giving UTC a chance with 2.9 seconds to go.
A half-court shot came up short.
"Everybody wanted this win, from the head coach to the managers," White said. "We couldn't get that done tonight. But I believe we got better."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...