CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dontay Hampton does make a difference.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior guard let out a roar in McAlister Fieldhouse after helping lead the Mocs to a 70-65 Southern Conference win over The Citadel on Thursday night.
Hampton, playing in his first game of the season after ACL surgery in July, had 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in 16 minutes and was the point guard down the stretch.
"I provided that veteran leadership and kept everyone focused," said Hampton, who prepped at Arts & Sciences. "I was telling them to play together.
"We don't want to be last year's team that lost close games."
Hampton shot 3-of-9 from the floor with three 3-pointers. His first points of the season came on a deep 3 from straight-on against the Bulldogs' 2-3 zone less than seven minutes into the game.
He hit his other 3s late in the second half to help UTC (7-9, 2-1) erase a 10-point deficit.
"We've never played against somebody that consistently hit the deep 3s, and it wasn't just him," said Citadel coach Chuck Driesell, who got 20 points from Matt Van Scyoc.
"[Hampton] adds leadership, poise, composure, and those were big shots," Driesell said. "They're down 10 on the road, and if he doesn't make those shots, it's a different game. I don't know that a freshman can have that kind of composure."
Hampton said he expected to play about five minutes spelling starting freshman Farad Cobb, who had eight points, and reserve Alex Bran. Coach John Shulman had Hampton and his bulky knee brace off the bench in the first wave of subs.
"He's got the 'it' factor," Shulman said. "He's a winner and we're going to ride him. He knows what I want and Farad is going to get there. He's been through the wars."
The Mocs went winless on the road last season with Hampton in the rotation. They now have two Southern Conference road victories and go for a third straight Saturday at the College of Charleston.
"If we needed anybody on the court in crunch time, it's him," said Zaccheus Mason, who had 15 points and eight rebounds and hit four free throws in the final 12 seconds. "He has the experience and he has the fight in him. He's not afraid to take big shots."
The Mocs went 9-for-20 from the arc and made 13 of 14 free throws. Senior post player Drazen Zlovaric was 6-of-6 and scored 14 points for UTC.
"We were down 10 on the road and found a way to win," Shulman said. "You don't give that one back."
UTC held the Bulldogs (3-10, 0-3) scoreless for nearly six minutes and built a 22-13 lead. But The Citadel rallied to go ahead 25-24. Gee McGhee hit a jump shot at the end of the first half to give UTC a 29-28 edge at intermission.
The Bulldogs made nine of their first 12 shots from the floor in the second half, which helped them build a 54-44 lead.
Mason and Ronrico White combined on a 9-0 spurt. UTC took its first lead of the final 18 minutes on a bucket by Mason with 1:07 to go. The game then became a free-throw-shooting contest. UTC went 6-for-6 the rest of the way and the Bulldogs went 3-for-5 and missed a 3 that would have give them a lead in the final minute.
But the Mocs celebrated at the final horn with Mason chest-bumping Hampton before teammates and coaches mobbed him near the bench.
"We're not used to having road wins," Hampton said. "I love road wins because everybody is against you."
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 ...