John Shulman walked over to former walk-on Ryan Gentle, who leads the student section in McKenzie Arena.
"Thank you," Shulman said. "Y'all are a bunch of crazy [guys]."
It's crazy that the same University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs who lost by 26 to UNC Greensboro on Thursday returned to the same gym and beat Southern Conference North Division champion Elon 72-68 on Saturday -- senior night.
Freshman Gee McGhee led the Mocs with 24 points on 13-of-19 free-throw shooting and added eight rebounds and a dramatic block in the final minute of a nip-and-tuck SoCon contest.
Senior Drazen Zlovaric added 10 points in his final game in McKenzie Arena, and junior Zaccheus Mason also had 10 before an announced crowd of 3,623 -- the second largest home crowd of the season.
"This game had nothing to do with league standings," Shulman said. "It had everything to do with Thursday night."
Elon, one of three SoCon teams with more than 10 conference victories, was led by 20 points from Ryley Beaumont. Sebastian Koch added 13 points and Jack Isenbarger had 12.
"This was similar to what you see in a SoCon tournament game," Phoenix coach Matt Matheny said. "It was a tough, close physical battle, which is exactly the way it's going to be up in Asheville [in the SoCon tournament]."
The Mocs (12-17, 7-9) began with an energy they didn't have in the 94-68 whipping by UNC Greensboro.
They did not press in the full court and mixed their defenses early and throughout the game. Elon inched out to a seven-point lead nine minutes in.
But the Mocs fought back and tied the game five times and finally took a midgame lead on free throws by McGhee, who had 13 points by intermission.
UTC led 38-37 at halftime, when the Red Panda returned for a show that combines a tall unicycle and flipping empty bowls onto her head.
Elon went up 56-50 about eight minutes into the second half. UTC responded with a 9-0 run capped by an Eric Robertson 3-pointer from the left corner, forcing Matheny to call for time with his team trailing 59-56.
The Phoenix never got even again.
McGhee expanded the lead to 69-62 with a short jumper after Zlovaric went coast-to-coast for a layup two minutes earlier.
Elon pulled within 69-66 but never had the ball and a chance to tie or take the lead in the final five minutes. McGee came across the lane and blocked a shot that could have pulled the Phoenix within two with 70 seconds to play.
"I don't know how I did it," McGhee said. "I was smiling after that. I've never done anything like that before."
Prior to the game, seniors Zlovaric, the injured Dontay Hampton and graduating walk-on junior Drew Baker were honored for their careers.
Escorted by family members, they met Shulman, interim athletic director Laura Herron and interim chancellor Dr. Grady Bogue and were presented framed pictures of moments in their playing careers. A video featuring the three players aired on the big screen just before the introductions.
"We wanted to play for the seniors, for the city, coach -- everybody," McGhee said. "We laid an egg on Thursday, so we wanted to redeem ourselves."
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 ...