Drazen Zlovaric started talking in Serbian after picking up his second foul in the first half.
A different talk the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior captain had with himself, also in Serbian, spurred him into a hot streak that helped the Mocs to a 62-59 overtime Southern Conference win against Samford on Monday.
With 13 points to go with seven rebounds in 27 minutes on the McKenzie Arena court, Zlovaric has scored in double figures four games in a row.
"There was a battle in my head that I just didn't want to mess up," he said. "When you play that way, it's hard to produce. So I had a little talk with myself."
Zlovaric's efforts after halftime helped UTC (10-15, 5-7) insert itself into the conversation for the fourth first-round bye for the Southern Conference tournament. The Mocs trail Appalachian State and Western Carolina by a game and a half.
"Somebody is going to get that fourth bye," UTC coach John Shulman said. "It could be a team that was picked last."
UTC will conclude its regular season with a trip to WCU and ASU in less than three weeks.
The Mocs first need to rest after playing three games in five days, culminating with the extra period Monday before an announced crowd of 2,976.
Freshman guard Gee McGhee, who spent most of the first half on the bench next to Zlovaric with two fouls, led UTC with 14 points. Sophomore Lance Stokes set a career high with 13 points, including two dunks.
"Coach really wanted me to get aggressive," Stoke said. "In the last couple games, I was floating out there."
The Bulldogs (8-17, 6-6) were led by 19 points from Raijon Kelly, who had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation and had a shot to send the game to a second overtime.
The Mocs made up for poor outside shooting with strong rebounding. They pulled down 43 rebounds, including 17 on the offensive end. Samford had 22 rebounds.
"We gutted it out," Shulman said. "Most teams that shoot 1-for-14 from the 3-point line lose."
Continuing a season-long trend, the Mocs fell behind early. The Bulldogs beat UTC's press for two easy buckets early and Shulman called it off. McGhee played less than three minutes, and Zlovaric played seven minutes due to foul trouble.
The Mocs trailed by 11 on three occasions but climbed within 32-25 by halftime, when they could regroup and get McGhee and Zlovaric involved in the game.
"I knew we were going to come out dead, then they were dead, then everybody was dead," Shulman said. "The whole halftime talk was, 'You're going to have nights like this, so find a way. Good teams find a way to win when you don't have your A game.'"
McGhee and Zlovaric propelled a 12-5 run to open the second half and tie the game at 37. Jared Bryant gave UTC its first lead of the second half, 40-39, by hitting one of two free throws.
Samford's Tim Williams tied the game at 55 with two free throws with 42.1 seconds to play in regulation. Zaccheus Mason missed a difficult post move on UTC's final possession. Then the Mocs forced Kelly to take a 28-footer that missed its mark, sending the game to overtime.
"Regardless of the play we ran, it shouldn't have come to that point if we do our job on the boards," Samford coach Bennie Seltzer said. "If we rebound better, we win."
Zlovaric opened the extra session with an inside bucket, which turned out to be UTC's only field goal in overtime. McGhee hit two free throws for a three-point lead with 22 seconds to go. Kelly scored on a layup to get Samford within one. Then White hit two free throws for a two-point lead with nine seconds left.
After a couple of timeouts, Kelly launched a 30-footer. Zlovaric grabbed the loose rebound and went to the line with less than a second to go. He smiled and hugged a smiling McGhee.
"We had to come out in the second half and play harder than them," Zlovaric said. "It was an ugly game."
It's also a victory.
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 ...