published Friday, January 13th, 2012

UTC Mocs win bruising battle with Terriers

UTC's Trey Brown, left, Jared Bryant, top center, and Head Coach John Shulman approve as the Mocs forge  ahead in first half after Omar Wattad leaves the game with a head injury.
UTC's Trey Brown, left, Jared Bryant, top center, and Head Coach John Shulman approve as the Mocs forge ahead in first half after Omar Wattad leaves the game with a head injury.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Appalachian State had a chance to win in the final seconds last Saturday at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Wofford had a chance to tie there in the closing seconds Thursday.

Neither team could top the Mocs.

Brad Loesing clanked a 3-pointer off the rim as time expired Thursday night, sending UTC to a 51-48 Southern Conference win over the Terriers in a bruising game that sent several players to the floor and one to the training room for stitches.

"I don't know that I've been a part of or seen anything quite like that one," Wofford coach Mike Young said. "No great secret -- they deserved to win."

It's a game that former Ole Miss tight end Zaccheus Mason loved. It helps that he led UTC (9-9, 3-2) with 17 points and 13 rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench.

"We knew going in that it was going to be a physical game," said Mason, who made his two free throws in the final minute. "We had to match it. We had to go at them like they came at us."

The Terriers (9-8, 2-3) brought the physical nature that led them to the last two SoCon tournament championships, but only two key players with rings remain on the Spartanburg, S.C., team.

Loesing, a senior, led Wofford with 21 points on 20 shots and classmate Kevin Giltner had eight points on 2-of-15 shooting. Wofford shot 28.4 percent from the floor and 17.1 percent from the arc.

"I don't think we had very good rhythm," Young said. "We settled [for shots], and that bothers me."

For the first time this season, the Mocs own a .500 overall record. They'll play for a fourth straight SoCon win Saturday afternoon at Samford less than 48 hours after Ricky Taylor totaled 11 points and seven rebounds and Drazen Zlovaric added 10 points against the Terriers.

"To be able to win a game on the defensive end, I'm tickled to death," UTC coach John Shulman said. "You're not going to score a lot of points against those guys. It didn't look pretty."

By the end, Omar Wattad looked the ugliest. The senior suffered a cut in the first half when Lee Skinner caught him with an elbow -- "just a basketball play," one referee said after reviewing a clip of the no-call.

Blood immediately began gushing from Wattad's face, and trainer B.J. Leyser escorted him to the training room, where Wattad received five stitches from Dr. Bradford Mitchell.

"He looks like Rocky after the fight," Mason joked after the game.

Wattad played one of his best defensive games of the season.

"I was going to box out and pass the ball and do other things to win," he said. "It's about winning."

Mason earned several pingpong balls in the "Big Ball Bucket." One came as the halftime horn sounded and he laid in a desperation airball from Taylor to give UTC a 28-21 lead at the break.

Wofford tied the game at 32 about six minutes into the second half. UTC inched ahead by six only to have the Terriers tie the game at 38, 40 and again at 44 with 1:06 to play.

Shulman called a play for Mason to score on the block. He was fouled and hit both free throws. Giltner missed a 3 and Taylor hit two free throws -- after missing two just a minute prior -- for a four-point lead with 28 seconds to play.

UTC led 49-46 when Dontay Hampton fouled Giltner on a 3-pointer with 8.1 seconds to go. Giltner missed the first and made the ensuing pair of free throws. UTC's Keegan Bell hit two with 6.5 seconds to go, setting up the final play.

Loesing's last-second 3 missed its mark -- like 28 other 3s the Terriers tossed up.

"It wasn't a masterpiece by any means," Shulman said. "I'll take an ugly win over Wofford."

about David Uchiyama...

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 ...

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